Baseball has long been one of America’s favorite pastimes, and as the professionals get into their new season, children of all ages do the same through Little League organizations.
The Weatherford Little League, which has been in existence for 60 years, faced some challenges in recent years as their contract with the City of Weatherford was updated and adjusted, but a unanimous decision at the April 22 City Council meeting eased some of those challenges.
After a brief executive session to discuss the legality of the decision, the council agreed to reduce by $5 the fees the association owes the city per athlete for the use of the fields.
The city first established those rates in 2011 at $30 for out-of-city athletes and $25 for Weatherford residents after it updated the lighting for all seven fields for about $400,000. That was the first time in about 30 years that the city revisited the contract with the Little League.
In 2012, the city raised those rates $5, and the association faced a net loss of over $18,000. They began looking for ways to cut costs, including not providing pants for the athletes and adjusting the payments to the umpires, but still face a $15,000 loss this year.
“Clearly something has to change,” Assistant City Manager Sharon Hayes said of that result of an audit and financial summaries.
With the fee reduction, the league expects to save about $5,500 next season with the hope to reduce that user fee further the following year. That option will be looked at again after the upcoming season.
“It’s our concern that, in our current cast position, in two years we will be insolvent,” said Jacob Holt, a representative from the league. “We really want to see ourselves as stewards of the city’s properties and the city’s citizens.”
At the meeting, Mayor Dennis Hooks expressed the city’s desire to treat all the youth organizations as equally as possible. Other associations such as youth football and soccer teams do not pay the city and the city covers some of the field maintenance.
In recent months, the city began mowing the fields for the Little League on a trial basis to see if the city would be set back at all. So far there has not been a significant impact on the city while it saves the league some thousands of dollars a year in equipment upkeep.
“I don’t have a problem with lowering the user fees, personally,” Hooks said. “I’d like to maintain all those youth organizations in order for them to at least break even.”
With that unanimous decision, the league will now pay the city the original price per athlete established in 2011. Registration fees for families will remain the same.