City expands athlete fee payment system

Sam Fosness, writing for The Daily Republic in Mitchell, SD says “to help offset facility maintenance costs, the city of Mitchell is evolving its method of how it charges sports program participants to an athlete fee-based system. Among the sports directly impacted by the payment setup are baseball, softball, hockey, soccer and figure skating, whose athletes are mandated to pay a $17 per-athlete fee for ages 13 and up, along with a $7 fee for athletes 12 and under. The fee, which also impacts adult rec league athletics, is paid each time an athlete is registered for a sport.

The remaining sports program that uses a city-owned facility and pays an athlete fee is the Mitchell Tennis Association. However, the athlete fee for the tennis association is set at $7, a $2 increase from last year.

“The costs of maintaining the fields and facilities has steadily increased over time, and we want to continue to provide quality facilities for all the participants in our sports programs,” Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell said in an interview with The Daily Republic.

Pat Moller, president of the Mitchell Tennis Association, said the maintenance of the tennis courts provided by the city has lived up to the athlete fee increase.

“We’ve had a great relationship with them, and they have done a great job at maintaining our facility. If there is anything wrong something, whether it be a bathroom or bench, it’s attended to when we ask,” Moller said. “The extra $2 is worth the kind of care the city provides for our courts.”

With the Parks and Recreation Board’s recent approval to amend the athlete fees listed above to be included in the Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association and Mitchell Figure Skating Academy’s facility use agreements, the associations now join the list of sports programs that must pay to play through an athlete fee.

Powell said athlete fees have been included for the soccer, tennis, softball and baseball associations dating back to 2001, but the Parks and Recreation Board collectively agreed to raise the fees for all the sports that utilize city-owned facilities to the current fixed rate, with the exception of tennis.

According to Powell, in 2010, the athlete fee for baseball was set at $10 for ages 13 and up, and $7 for 12 and under. He said adjusting the athlete fees at the same rate for the five athletic associations who use city-owned facilities was a decision aimed at equally leveling the playing field.

“If they have more athletes in a given year, then they’ll pay more. But if there are less athletes, they’ll pay less,” Powell said. “We’re striving to equally charge all of the sports associations in our city.”

Several additional changes were also made to the MSHA and MFSA’s facility use agreements during Thursday’s Parks and Recreation Board meeting, which include a $300 fee for utilizing the concessions stand inside the Activities Center and the dates of the 2019-2020 season’s schedule. The new schedule for both associations will span from September 16 of this year to April 30, 2020.

“We require all of our concessions to pay for usage, such as the baseball association paying $300,” Powell said. “We were requiring no charge for the concessions before this amended change.”

Board President Brian Johnson said concessions produce significant revenue, and asked the board to entertain sports associations paying a percentage-based cost to utilize the city’s concessions stands.

“Since some sporting events bring more people than others at times, it would be a way to fairly adjust the rent for our associations,” Johnson said.

In addition, MSHA and MFSA will pay an hourly rate of $63 to rent the ice at the Activities Center. According to Powell, a one-time $70,000 fee was paid by the MSHA and MFSA associations in years prior.

“With the changes and the hourly rate set at $63 per rink, it will put us right around that $70,000 mark we’re used to,” Powell said.

While the hockey and figure skating associations’ rental fee for the ice is based on an hourly rate, baseball, softball and soccer pay a fixed amount for a diamond or field per day. For example, the baseball association pays a $32 fee per diamond per day.

MSHA President Lana Loken raised questions surrounding the hockey association’s hourly rental rate, considering the MSHA may not utilize all of the scheduled hours the city agrees upon.

“I’m wondering how the hourly rate for renting the ice will be tracked, and how they’ll be billed?” Loken asked the board Thursday at City Hall. “If we wouldn’t use the specified hours in the agreement would there be any reimbursement available?”

Powell said the hourly rate of renting the ice is adjustable, and will be tracked by Sports Complex Supervisor Dan Dobesh.

Wade Ziegeldorf, a representative with the Mitchell Figure Skating Association, asked how the city’s facility use agreements define an athlete.

“For our case, would any participant be considered an athlete who has to pay the fee?” Ziegeldorf asked the board. “Because we have folks that figure skate and don’t compete.”

In response, Powell said athletes on the MFSA’s and other sports teams official roster are the only participants required to pay the athlete fee.

“An outside individual using the facility would not be charged an athlete fee,” Powell said.