During yesterday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the Gateway Services Community Development District, the topic of the soccer field operating costs was raised by Supervisor Doug Banks.
Banks wanted to know how district staff arrived at the $48/hour charge that the GSCDD is currently collecting from Gateway’s youth sports leagues for field usage under the lights. Banks joked that it was almost as if the district threw a dart at a dartboard to come up with their bloated figure.
Supervisor Banks may have hit the bulls-eye with his remark.
Public Works Manager Michael Tisch defended the costs, and downplayed making any connection to the $31 that Lee County charges.
Lee County is a much larger operation, and that provides them with various advantages, said Tisch.
But it turns out that being large doesn’t help when it comes to the economics of operating soccer fields.
The Gateway Sun has obtained a Cost Benefit Analysis document that Lee County Parks & Recreation published in 2015.
That year, Buckingham Community Park cost $439,454 to operate, and had revenues of $6,515.
Lee Oaks Park? $467,599 in costs with $7,514 in revenue.
But those are two of the most extreme examples. So let’s look at the two parks with the highest revenues.
Veterans Park in Lehigh Acres generated $20,870 – at a cost of $374,096… while Estero Community Park brought in $20,311 and cost taxpayers $380,242.
All in all, on these kinds of community parks, Lee County spent over $4 million to operate them, and they brought in less than $100,000 in 2015.
So the verdict is in… It wouldn’t matter if Lee County charged $31 per hour, or $310 per hour, the parks will cost Lee County residents money. And plenty of Lee County residents don’t use the parks at all.
Lee County knows that you don’t try to break even on amenities. They’re there for the betterment of the community. And so Lee County doesn’t try to gouge children’s leagues.
No longer can the Board of Supervisors hide behind their own ignorance or the staff’s recommendation.
These numbers speak for themselves.
From this point forward, if the Supervisors continue to overcharge the youth leagues it’s an informed decision. It’s deliberate.
Because regardless of whatever numbers the staff says the fields cost to operate, it doesn’t matter. They’re going to cost the district money.
Consider this as well:
The Sun can now confirm that the Gateway Soccer Association has not signed their lease to use the Sherman Soccer Complex, despite the fact that the season is just weeks away.
Should the unthinkable happen and the GSA refund everyone’s money and cancel their season, who in their right mind is going to start a new league paying Gateway’s $48/hour per field when they can get the same thing at a Lee County field for $31?
Once these leagues are gone, they’re gone.
Therefore, the Sun calls on the GSCDD to match Lee County’s field rental rates and give Gateway’s youth sports leagues an equal chance to compete for players.