BY MICHAEL WALTON
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Parents might be reaching deeper into their pockets when it’s time to play ball this spring.
Participation fees for the popular youth program likely will go up because costs the group pays for renting Grand Traverse County fields are poised to increase by almost 47 percent this year, American Legion baseball board member Bob Johnson said.
American Legion’s 2013 bill from the county was about $7,100, Johnson said. This year an estimate for the bill came in at $10,400. Additional costs will be passed on to baseball players’ families, Johnson said.
”We’ll have to raise fees,” he said. “It’s that pure and simple.”
Johnson received the estimate on 2014 costs shortly after American Legion officials voiced concern to Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation commissioners that a new field rental policy would allow other recreation groups to reserve Civic Center fields before the American Legion laid out its schedule.
Those concerns largely were resolved, but Johnson said fees and scheduling changes— and little prior notice given to the American Legion by parks officials in both cases -- left a bad taste.
“The impression we get, and I hate to say this because we’re trying to have a good relationship with them, is they really don’t want us on those fields,” Johnson said.
The American Legion previously paid only field maintenance costs under a county commission resolution passed in 2011, but commission members adopted a different resolution in May that gave the parks board the authority to set American Legion’s fees, county documents state.
Parks and Recreation Director Jason Jones said American Legion’s 2014 bill is based on the park’s department published field fees, which parks board members increased by 5 percent in August following a recommendation from county administrators.
Jones said he is surprised by the new worries because he and American Legion officials recently “had a very good meeting.”
“I thought our meeting went a lot better than it did,” Jones said.
Some parks commissioners said they were troubled by the increased costs to American Legion, but Jones said parks board members approved the fee structure and the new rental policy.
Board member Alisa Kroupa said Jones at the time did not clarify that the American Legion’s previous costs were based on the maintenance agreement, not the rental fees.
Kroupa said the parks board will revisit the American Legion fees.