Buffalo, NY - Buffalo's city parks are used by many folks, including some from outside the city, who may enjoy playing in adult recreation leagues in those parks. But a move to double the fees for recreational leagues to use fields in the parks has caused some organizers to call off games all-together.
An estimated 1,200 adult athletes have played in popular organized games for kickball, softball, and soccer through the Mile Sports league teams in Buffalo City Parks. But now for this years's schedule Milesports official Mike Damico says "We've already lost 20 percent of the softball teams. We don't know about soccer yet. There's a bunch of kickball teams that aren't gonna play because it's too expensive. They could play...a lot of these players come from the inner ring suburbs. They could just play out in the suburbs and not pay the fees they pay here."
Damico is upset rental fees have doubled for leagues from $100 dollars to $200 dollars. He in turn has to charge more for league registration for players covering items like equipment and liability.
City Council Finance Committee Chair Richard Fontana says the city administration requested higher fees to cover costs of activities in city parks. He notes they hadn't gone up for decades. "I think the city is being fair in the situation. Actually behind the times with the fees. We had to adjust them. The city has invested millions and millions of dollars into our parks under the direction of Mr. Rabb and Mr. Stepniak. They've been doing a great job of keeping our parks up."
Councilman Fontana also questions if league organizers are making a profit with their rented use of city parks.
Damico says his operation is strictly not for profit and runs charity events. He also feels it benefits the city for the active adults who also attend post game gatherings at city bars and restaurants and says the increase were short sighted "We paid $140,000 dollars since we started in league fees. We have no problem with paying league fees. But when you double a league fee from one day to the next and don't explain it to anybody."
Fontana says "They'll be talking with us again but I'm gonna ask some pointed questions. I want to know what kind of profit is being made, I wanna see their budget. And if it's just a mere 'you cut into my profit' I really don't want to hear about it."
Fontana says City Council will meet again with Damico and others from the league at an upcoming City Hall meeting. Damico says he welcomes the chance to set the record straight.
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