Smiths Station leagues pay to play ball
By Denise DuBois
A new Smiths Station city ordinance involving leagues playing at the Smiths Station Sports Complex will see leagues paying a fee to the city for field use.
The ordinance passed in January took effect Feb. 1 and requires each league to pay $250 per league per season and $15 per player. That money will go back to the city’s coffers to maintain the fields and pay for utilities.
Smiths Station Mayor Fred “Bubba” Copeland said that since the complex was built, leagues didn’t pay anything to use the facility.
“Forty percent of the whole general fund budget was used for upkeep,” Copeland said. The money collected will recoup about 10 percent of that 40, he added.
Before the ordinance was passed, it went before the four-person Parks and Recreation Board and was approved unanimously. Copeland said the city council also discussed it with the Lee County Commission before being approved 6-0 by the city council.
There are four children’s leagues and one adult league that play on the fields at the sports complex.
“The money will help offset the costs of finishing the soccer field and bringing Dixie Youth fields,” Copeland said. “In order to be a progressive city, you have to make sure you have money to be progressive.”
Spring sports began in March and Randy Huffman, president of the Dixie Girls youth league, said it would cost their league $3,000 for the 200 girls playing this season. He said it may be okay as long as the city keeps its promise to maintain the fields.
“We’re all volunteers. It’s hard to find time to cut the grass and maintain the fields. At that price, it’s a little high, but it’s a good trade-off,” Huffman said. Although, he does wish the city would have asked the leagues for their opinion before deciding on $15 per player.
At the moment, he’s not sure if the fees will hurt the league or not.
“We won’t know until the end of the season,” he said. But if it does, Huffman said they would have to pass that cost off to the parents by raising the registration fee. Currently, the fee for Dixie Girls Softball is $65 for girls 6-18 years old.
Recouping costs for sporting leagues isn’t unique to Smiths Station. In Russell County, the two leagues, one in Seale and one in Ladonia, are required to pay one third of the utility costs every month, even when leagues are not playing sports. In Phenix City, the city budgets youth sports as part of its multi-million-dollar budget, however, concession stand sales are given back to the city.