City upholds field rental fee hike

Sports organizers, players frustrated by lack of consultation

Corey Draper, executive director of the Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports, says the city did not consult with athletic groups like his before introducing a 105 per cent fee hike to rent public fields in 2013-14 civic budgets. Dylan Hewlett

A Winnipeg sports organization is upset over a 105 per cent fee hike to rent public fields in the new civic budget, which, in spite of an appeal, was upheld by a city council vote last week.

On Tuesday, Jan. 28, Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports (MODS) executive director Corey Draper urged city councillors to reconsider the increase - from $34 per rental to $70 - arguing field users, who received no prior consultation or warning, would be adversely affected.

A motion to reduce the increase to $43 - proposed by North Kildonan Coun. Jeff Browaty, who later pulled his support, and St. Vital councillor Brian Mayes - received only five votes.

“There’s no justification for it,” said Draper, noting the additional fees will not be directed towards field maintenance, but to an enforcement program meant to prevent unpaid field usage instead.

“You’re punishing a non-profit group that supports healthy, affordable living by charging twice as much and then not even putting that money back into the actual fields.”

The fee hike is expected to hit leisure sports groups like disc sport players, such as ultimate Frisbee, the hardest.

MODS, which represents more than 3,000 players of disc sports in the city, will be forced to increase its registration fees in the coming year, Draper said, although he adds that the severity of said increase has not yet been calculated.

“It really makes budgeting difficult when we don’t receive any notice like this.”

When city field rental fees were increased four years ago, sports organizations were consulted ahead of time, Draper said.

Mike Tottle, a River Heights resident who participates in a recreational ultimate league, thinks the city is sending a bad message.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk all the time coming from different levels of government about being healthy and staying active, and now they’re making that harder for adults - they’re discouraging it.

“It doesn’t speak very well to their priorities.”

Fort Rouge Coun. Jenny Gerbasi, one of the five councillors who voted to reduce the fee increase (Couns. Mayes, Eadie, Orlikow and Swandel were the others), agrees the end result reflects poorly on city hall.

“It was done in a very dictatorial way,” she said. “What it shows is that it was something being looked at solely from a revenue point of view.

“It’s also a bit of an issue of respect for users and sports organizations,” she added. “People were totally blindsided by the size of the increase.”

Despite withdrawing his support for the motion, Browaty - an ultimate player himself - remains adamant he has field users’ best interests in mind.

“The idea is that the enforcement (paid for by $60,000 of new fee revenue) will recover enough costs that the spill over can be used to improve fields,” he explained, adding that many of the city’s fields are “in really lousy shape.”

“If that doesn’t prove to be correct, I’m going to be the first one to suggest all of the money goes straight into direct (field) maintenance,” he said.

Published in Volume 67, Number 19 of The Uniter (February 7, 2013)

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