MANSFIELD -- The City Council on Monday eased restrictions on alcohol sales at Big League Dreams to help the increasingly busy park fit more games into its schedule.
Since the sports complex opened in 2008, alcohol sales have been banned throughout the park if a youth game was under way on any of the eight ball fields -- and for an hour after the game ended.
It was a compromise reached between the city, which owns the park, and Big League Dreams, which operates it, after many residents asked for a total ban on alcohol during negotiations on the original operating agreement. A total alcohol ban would have killed the park project before it started, Big League Dreams officials warned at the time.
The ballfields are divided into two groups of four, with each group -- or "pod" -- served by one restaurant. In the policy change approved unanimously and without comment by the council Monday, the alcohol ban will apply only to the pod in which a youth game is being played. Drinks will be served at the other pod's restaurant.
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The change was prompted by the park's success, officials said. The boost in business that followed the installation of artificial infields last year also has made it more difficult to schedule adult games around youth games.
"This will allow them more flexibility to use the fields," said Shelly Lanners, the city's director of community services. "They have a good staff out there and run a good program."
Mansfield youth sports groups backed the change, signing documents of support.
Doyle Spurgin, president of the Mansfield Girls Softball Association, said his 700-plus members play most of their games at McKnight Park. But the softball ranks are growing, he said, up from 240 girls five or six years ago.
"At some point, we're going to have to overflow into another park locally or Big League Dreams," he said, adding that he's confident the management will continue to maintain a family-friendly atmosphere. "We have not experienced any issue as far as alcohol is concerned."
Scott LeTellier, chief executive and co-owner of the California-based Big League Dreams chain, said the youth groups were asked if they wanted a policy that backed off a little on alcohol restrictions in exchange for getting more game time at the park. He said the change brings the Mansfield park's policy in line with some of the other 10 parks.
"Some of our California parks have no restrictions at all," he said.
The council also approved a resolution stating that the city will not raise its property tax rate, currently at 71 cents per $100 of assessed property value. But the general fund budget could be larger based on increased revenues.
During a work session before the regular meeting, City Manager Clayton Chandler laid out a preliminary general fund budget of $38.2 million for the coming fiscal year, 4.6 percent higher than the current year's budget. It would include an average 3 percent merit raise for city employees.
The budget will go through several council work sessions and public hearings before a final version is adopted, likely in late August.