Groups concerned about new sports field user fee in Maple Ridge – Pitt Meadows

The new $15 fee will go towards the eventual replacement of the three fields located at Pitt Meadows, Westview & Samuel Robertson secondary

  • Feb. 17, 2012 9:00 a.m.
Natalie Aursperg of the Pitt Meadows X-treme during a U-16 game against the Coquitlam Metro Ford Threat on Sunday at Westview Secondary. There's a new fee being levied on summer sports field users.

Natalie Aursperg of the Pitt Meadows X-treme during a U-16 game against the Coquitlam Metro Ford Threat on Sunday at Westview Secondary. There's a new fee being levied on summer sports field users.

A new fee levied on summer sports field users has some local sports groups worried poorer families won’t be able to pay to play.

The new $15 fee will go towards the eventual replacement of artificial playing surfaces on the three local all-weather fields located at Pitt Meadows, Westview, and Samuel Robertson secondary schools.

Previously, field users during the fall and winter were charged a $30 fee per youth player, and $60 per adult, while all summer users were exempt.

In addition to charging summer users $15, adult winter users will have their field replacement fee reduced to $30 per head.

Gord Easton, president of the Ridge Meadows Minor Baseball Association, said the new fee structure will mean his organization will have to raise their fees for the first time in five years.

“It’s going to hurt us a lot,” Easton said. “We’re going to have to come up with $10,000 to $12,000, and that means raising our fees. It’s definitely going to affect our registration.”

The RMMBA registers close to 800 players annually. Each pays $90 to $250 to play.

Local parks and facilities director David Boag said the new fee structure strikes a fair balance.

“Previously, it was the soccer associations who were paying the majority of the fees,” he said. “The new blended rate spreads it around where everyone pays. It’s more fair that way.”

Boag estimates the cost to replace each artificial playing surface at close to $500,000, which will likely take place in 10 to 12 years time.

“There’s an indirect benefit to the summer users,” said Boag of artificial turf fields. Even if they don’t use the artificial turf fields, the grass fields they normally play on will be in better shape because other sports teams won’t be using them in marginal conditions through the winter, which can damage the grass. Artificial all-weather fields can accommodate seven times as much game use as a grass field during the rainy winter months, he said.

Boag said the recommendation to change the fee structure came from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Sports Field Users’ Association, of which the RMMBA is a member.

Chris Begg, president of the Pitt Meadows Soccer Club, said his organization supported the fee change. Currently, local soccer groups contribute close to 70 per cent of the artificial turf replacement fees.

“This distributes the burden across all user groups,” he said. “I think it’s fair that everyone who’s using the field pays.”

Begg said compared to other municipalities that don’t have access to gaming grants from local casinos, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows still have among the lowest user fees.

“I think we’re doing okay here,” he said.

Boag said he expects the new fee to create a surplus in the artificial turf replacement account which will go towards facility upgrades. Spring and summer users will have priority for those funds to start.

“That could go to new drinking fountains, bleachers, covered dugouts,” said Boag.