City hall takes sport field fees off the table

The city’s decision to waive permit fees for usage of sport fields is a popular one.

“We’re all ecstatic that the situation got rectified because it put us in a bad spot,” said Andrew Pace, president of the East York Baseball Association.

The proposed fees caused an uproar in sports leagues because when they were announced, many leagues already registered and charged players.

But while Ward 26/Don Valley West councillor John Parker acknowledges that the timing may have been off, he thinks the fees are necessary.

“I think we did the right thing,” Parker said. “We just did the right thing a little later than we should have.”

The decision to waive the fees for 2012 was clear to city council on April 9, when councillors unanimously voted 41-0 in support. But the road ahead is not clear.

Some councillors favour reinstating the fees in 2013 after consultation with various sports leagues, while others think added costs are a bad idea altogether. Parker maintains that the fees are necessary.

“Right now we do not have the revenues to finance the expenses that we’ve got and we are doing the best we can to keep the expenses as low as possible,” Parker said.

But Ward 31/Beaches-East York councillor Janet Davis is concerned that fees may make sport leagues too costly.

“For many leagues, the new fees will make their programs unaffordable for families,” she said.

Pace said he wouldn’t mind paying the fee for 2013, even though it is more like a tax. The difference between a fee and a tax is that a fee’s proceeds could be allocated to the fields, whereas taxes are for general revenues.

“The funda were not going to go toward hiring any additional staff or improving the quality of the fields whatsoever,” Davis said. But Parker compared the fees to TTC fares.

“We all contribute to the overall cost of running the bus, but he particular person who rides the bus pays the ticket to get on,” he said.

Pace said he would be unwilling to pay the fee unless there is an actual benefit to teams attached. He added that municipalities who charge fees also keep them “immaculate,” whereas his team does a lot of maintenance.

Parker said he is grateful for the extra work leagues do to maintain fields, but the city can’t afford to maintain its fields at a professional level.

“We have a number of leagues that play at a competitive level and they require a field that is maintained to a professional standard,” Parker said. “Those organizations take responsibility for upgrading the fields.”

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