The Sedalia Park Board voted last week to increase the rental fee for baseball fields in Sedalia, but the change won’t affect every team that utilizes the fields.
Effective Jan. 1, 2016, rental fees for baseball/softball fields will increase from $50 to $75 per day or $100 per day for a game-ready, marked field. During Thursday’s meeting, Parks Director Mark Hewett explained that Sedalia has some of the lowest field rental rates in the area at $50 a day, especially when it costs $73 for two employees to prep and mark the field each time.
“We did a survey of all the towns around, and our rental fee was far below what other towns were charging,” Hewett told the Democrat on Tuesday. “With labor and materials, it keeps going up, with the lights, every town I know of has to recoup some of those costs and we were far under that. … There’s only one or two towns even cheaper than us. This puts us about the lowest in the state as far as new rental rates that will apply.”
There are three categories of teams that utilize Sedalia Parks and Recreations’ 13 baseball/softball fields: associations, such as girls softball, Parks and Rec teams, such as the youth baseball league, and competitive teams, such as the competitive youth baseball league. Sedalia School District 200 and Sacred Heart School use the fields as well, but they do not pay a fee to do so.
These increased rental fees will apply to competitive teams, any outside teams and Parks and Rec teams that want to use the fields in addition to their scheduled practices and games.
“If (Parks and Rec teams) want to rent it outside of the practice schedule we provide the rental rate still applies,” Hewett said. “They give us a fee and then we give them practice time and they play in our league.”
Associations such as the Paul Klover Soccer Association, Youth Football League and girls softball do not pay field rental fees, but they sign a contract with the Parks and Rec Department making them accountable to the Park Board.
“Those three bodies operate independently of our department,” Hewett explained. “They use our facility and do not pay us a fee, but they have a board of directors and are accountable for games, money, they have their own discipline policy. They are a nonprofit registered with the state, so we have an agreement with them they sign so they are accountable to us. If the Park Board wants a financial statement they have to provide it to us. … Those associations have always operated like this.”
Competitive baseball teams include the traveling competitive youth baseball league, which consists of 10 Sedalia teams and 18 out-of-town teams. These teams use Sedalia fields Tuesdays and Wednesdays at no cost, which the Park Board is looking to change.
“No town has enough fields — we have over 100 teams and 13 fields — so the main idea of this was we want to grow our Parks and Rec baseball,” Hewett said. “They pay a fee to us; we cannot promote that properly when competitive teams are using two main nights a week. Park Board put Parks and Rec teams as a priority, as they should be.
“If we have time and fields leftover, we will work with competitive teams,” he added. “They serve a great deal; there’s a place for them, but they do travel and none of that money is coming to us.”
Parks and Rec staff has come up with two options for those competitive teams to create a level playing field for all: either form an association with a board of directors so they don’t have to pay field fees, or pay the rental fees. At the moment, Hewett said they are considered a “private venture.”
Hewett said he will meet with representatives of those competitive teams later this week to make a final decision, which will be presented during November’s Park Board meeting.
“We’ll sit down and work something out. If they don’t form an association, we’ll work on a plan A or B where we charge them a rental fee,” he said. “It may not be what’s on that (rental fee) sheet, it may be a special rate because they’re doing it all the time.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.