I endorse quality playing fields for Winter Park children participating in non profit sports leagues. Such fields should be of a quality at least as high as the best fields used generally available for youth sports leagues in nearby municipalities.
The commission never looked at the facts when voting to spend $1,600,000 on two artificial turf playing fields outside the annual budget process. Please see the 2018-2019 field comparison and usage statistics prepared by city staff that were not part of the public meeting agenda packet.
We are significantly subsidizing other municipalities demand for playing fields. Winter Park has one multi-use playing field for every 3,000 residents while the average of all other municipalities in the staff analysis is one multi-use playing field for every 15,000 residents.
We are subsidizing non-residents. Non-resident usage at about 65% of total field use capacity. Staff estimates of resident versus non-resident field use show that resident usage per hour of field use available is less than 40% for youth sports and less than 25% for adult sports.
We are subsidizing “for profit” teams and leagues who consume over 60% of available playing fields hours.
Based on staff’s usage numbers, we can focus our playing field investment on improving the drainage on four of our nine natural turf fields, setting aside these fields exclusively for resident focused non profit youth sports teams and leagues. The other fields can be set aside for “for profit” and adult league usage and maintained to the extent of whatever rental fees are available from this segment of the market.
In other words, we can focus on our children and not spend $1,600,000 on artificial turf fields for the benefit of for profit sports leagues and non-residents. There is no good reason Winter Park taxpayers should be subsidizing the regional demand for playing fields as we currently do, and there is no good reason to increase this subsidy.
That $1,600,000 is our money to be spent on the needs of Winter Park residents. Apparently, none of this occurred to the commissioners who voted to spend it based in part on lobbying efforts that included input from some involved in the for profit segment of the sports league business.
Let’s take care of our children and let others pay their own way.