Players dream of fields without fees |

Players dream of fields without fees

Column by Claire Fortier

With $48,000 in the bank, the Community Athletic Coordinating Council seems to have more than enough money to maintain athletic fields, particularly since maintenance last year amount to $8,300.

Isn’t the CACC’s $7 per player fee too high if the group has a surplus? Isn’t it enough to pay taxes to the city and state for playing fields? Shouldn’t these costs be covered by Measure S, an additional $18 per year local taxpayers agreed to pay to create more recreational opportunities?

The answer to all of above is no, and yes.

The simple answer is no.

The cost to maintain playing fields is far more expensive in the Tahoe Basin than it is in a more fertile place like San Francisco. It’s tough enough to maintain a lawn here. Imagine if that grass were trampled by dozens of people all day long.

However, the simple answer doesn’t cover other key issues that have more to do with how money is allocated than how hard it is to grow grass.

When the CACC was formed 12 years ago, neither the city of South Lake Tahoe nor the Lake Tahoe Unified School System, which split the cost of field maintenance, were shelling out the cash to keep the ball fields in the kind of shape those playing on the fields wanted.

Hence, the community-based CACC was formed. The idea was that those who played on the fields would have a say in how the fields were maintained.

Representatives from the schools and the city worked with representatives from organized sports to managed maintenance.

Soon the CACC was charging a per-player fee to supplement the difference between what the city and schools were paying and the cost of keeping the fields as playable as possible.

The mission of the CACC began to change. Instead of just paying for top soil and fertilizer, the CACC was buying for new fences and dugouts. After all, it’s only fair that those who use the fields should pay for extras like bleachers and backstops.

Five years ago, city and school faced huge budget cutbacks, even as demand for ball fields almost doubled.

For example, a decade ago there was no organized soccer for kids. Now 1,200 South Lake Tahoe children participate.

That’s when the CACC decided to do something about the problem. In a communitywide effort, the CACC raised the money and legions of volunteers to build two “Fields of Dreams.” Whether that should have been the role of CACC can be argued in hindsight, but at the time, the CACC was the only group

capable of stepping up to the plate.

More than $145,000 of the $207,201 the CACC has collected in the past eight years went toward the two Fields of Dreams.

Unfortunately, one of those fields was built on more than six feet of clay, which means when the ground is saturated, there is no place for drainage.

That problem needs to be corrected and will be costly. South Shore residents proved they wanted to continue the CACC’s quest for more ball fields when they passed Measure S last year. However, the bond measure is earmarked for new playing fields, not maintenance of the old ones.

Which brings the problem of playing fields around full circle.

The CACC has the job of overseeing the quality of field maintenance by default. It also sees it mission as providing facilities like bleacher and fences beyond simply putting top soil and fertilizer on the ground.

Is that the CACC’s job or the job of the city and the schools? That certainly is up for debate. But there is a certain quid pro quo about those using the ball fields paying for all the stuff that goes along playing fields.

However, the money raised for fields should go toward fields, not lobbying for Measure S as the CACC did with $15,000 of its money last year.

Bottom line is the CACC is justified in maintaining the fees as long as the money is used on the playing fields, not bankrolled for the future or used for other purposes.

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