Keller City Council members are beginning to look at options for charging non-residents an extra fee to use the Keller Sports Park after they failed to get Fort Worth city officials to share the operating costs.“It’s pretty clear this is a big problem,” said Councilman Gary Reaves. “But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’re here to let kids play ball, and this is really what it’s all about. Unfortunately, Fort Worth is not providing park facilities for its residents in north Fort Worth.”The Keller Sports Park is used primarily by the Keller Soccer Association and the Keller Youth Association.According to 2010 figures, the most recent year available, about 44 percent of almost 10,000 children who play at the park are from Fort Worth, 42 percent are from Keller and 14 percent are from another city.Keller spends about $750,000 a year to maintain the park.Keller officials had asked Fort Worth to contribute a percentage of the operating costs equal to its percentage of users, but Fort Worth officials could not come to a consensus, said Fort Worth Councilmember Sal Espino, whose District 2 includes the portion of Fort Worth within the Keller school district.Espino had supported the idea of Fort Worth defraying the costs, saying it would be “a win-win for everyone,” especially in the short term because the Alliance area does not have adequate parks.Several council members, however, were fine with the idea of non-resident participants paying an extra fee, he said.At the May 7 pre-council meeting, Keller City Manager Steve Polasek presented a number of options for reducing taxpayer costs at the Sports Park.Right now, the Keller Soccer Association and Keller Youth Association pay a small annual fee for lights, about $3,000 to $4,000, but cover none of the other costs for park upkeep.Whit Green, president of the Keller Youth Association, said the organization invests profits into improving the park.Recently, KYA paid to replace infields at the baseball diamonds and for shade structures over bleachers.Erin Pfarner, a board member of the Keller Soccer Association, said KSA purchased two lightning detectors for the parks and paid for fencing and gates.Polasek presented a range of options for non-resident and resident fees to cover Sports Park costs.City and youth association officials were concerned that charging too much too soon would drive out participants and ultimately drive up costs due to economies of scale. The maximum fee that might be sustainable would be a $10 maintenance fee for all users and a $20 fee for non-residents, Polasek said. That level would raise about $215,000 a year.Many surrounding cities charge user fees for city playing fields.Polasek said fees ranged from $5 per player in Grapevine to $15 for residents and $35 for non-residents in Coppell.Pfarner said KSA officials would look at some alternatives to minimize the increase for players, such as hosting more tournaments. She also would like KSA to explore options with the city for public-private partnerships.Polasek said he and city staff would meet with youth association officials to come up with a viable plan to discuss with the city council on May 21.Several of the council members said they want the Sports Park to move towards a self-sustaining model like the Keller Pointe.“If you play you pay,” Councilman Bill Dodge said.
Sandra Engelland, 817-431-2231 Twitter: @SandraEngelland