Hanford youth sports leagues in jeopardy

FRESNO, Calif.

Dozens of parents gathered inside the Civic Auditorium hoping the City's Recreation Commission doesn't start forcing Hanford youth sports leagues to pay tens of thousands of dollars to use the city's fields.

Organizers told Action News Monday, if they're charged, it could force the leagues to shut down.

For decades children have filled these fields excited to run the bases or toss the football around as part of Hanford's youth sports leagues.

Now, organizers fear many kids' playing time could be in jeopardy, now that the City of Hanford wants to start charging the leagues $50,000 to $60,000 each per year to use the fields.

"We'd probably have to charge a bigger registration fee which people have a tough time paying that registration fee as it is," Jaime Ramirez said.

Parent and Hanford Youth Football Board Member Jaime Ramirez says the league charges $75-per child which covers full equipment costs except for cleats and socks.

A big increase in costs to the organization could mean far less than the 1,000 children expected to join football and baseball this year.

"Probably have to charge $300 to $500 a kid that's to me is pretty excessive. I don't think we'd have the turnout," Ramirez said.

"We can only build off of what they give us and if we don't have that level of support anymore we would be forced to maintain or worse case scenario shut down baseball as we know it," Kevin Lemaster said.

Parents also clean the fields and bathrooms after each use and have even invested money into improving the fields.

Hanford city officials are hoping the leagues can still stay afloat.

Right now the leagues use the fields for free. Recreation Director Scott Yeager says the city loses roughly $130,000 each year because of it.

"That's paying someone to mow that's paying for the water that's paying for the lights used by the sports groups," Yeager said.

Yeager says the city will consider charging the leagues 20% of the maintenance costs the first year, with the cost going up incrementally over five years, until the leagues are paying the full $130,000.

"It's reasonable to expect some cost recovery from all the groups. You know, we need to cover our costs to some extent," Yeager said.

If the City Recreation Commission votes on putting the costs on the youth sports leagues, it will go for final approval by the City Council as early as next week.

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