There was significant concern about the Hernando Youth League (HYL) field fees item that was placed on the Jan. 9, 2023, agenda for the Brooksville City Council. The item was placed on the agenda by City Manager Ron Snowberger.
The agenda item states in the fiscal impact portion that the HYL only pays a “rate of $1.58 per hour” to rent the fields and that the “city currently charges $20.00 an hour for rental fees.” With the HYL’s usage of the field, this is a difference of $23,000, according to the agenda item.
Mike Walker, President of HYL, stated, “These types of partnerships are what cities and counties should strive for, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the taxpayers, unless the government wants to run and manage the leagues. Could you imagine the cost and manpower it would take the city to operate the girls’ softball program at Tom Varn?”
Mr. Walker went on to provide background on HYL. “HYL has 65 years of being the volunteer-run youth league service provider to the children and Families of Hernando County and Brooksville. Established by Mr. Ernie Wever back in 1958, incorporated in 1972. Utilized Tom Varn Park beginning in the ’70s and grew to a county-wide volunteer-based recreational youth sports provider which it is today.”
HYL currently provides sporting experience to around 1500 kids. The softball program at Tom Varn serves 200 girls. Around the county, HYL provides baseball, softball, football, soccer, basketball, and cheerleading at a number of venues. The HYL volunteers are background checked, and the sports are open to all children.
According to Mr. Walker, the additional fees would have to be passed on to the parents of the girls playing softball. This would mean a significant increase in the price that the girls are charged to join the softball team.
The meeting took place on Monday, January 9th, at 7 pm. The supporters of HYL showed up in force. They spoke of the benefits that they had witnessed participating in youth sports. They spoke about the long history of HYL, how it is open to all kids, and its rental hours in bulk. They spoke about how HYL had built a large portion of the facilities at Tom Varn with the help of volunteers. Two people representing travel softball teams also spoke about their desire for equitable pricing. Everyone was civil even though there was significant passion shown.
Travel softball teams are usually select teams of players that compete on a higher level than recreation ball leagues like HYL. Often membership on travel ball teams is by invitation only. These teams take their name from the large distances they cover to play against other teams. There are several travel ball teams that would like to rent a field periodically.
Mr. Snowberger and then Park Director David Howard made a presentation about how the rental fees were not equitable between what HYL pays and what other organizations rent the field for. Mr. Howard asked for direction from the council on how he could justify the rates given to HYL to other organizations that rent the fields. HYL rents three of the five fields and, according to the contract, can reserve the Tom Varm fields as much as needed as long as Hernando High School has not already reserved the fields.
The council then discussed the agenda item and decided to leave the HYL contract in place until the three-year contract signed in 2021 expires. Mayor Blake Bell mentioned that HYL rents the more numerous Ernie Wever baseball fields for $1 a year. The council discussed creating a special rate for HYL to rent the fields due to the reason presented by the speakers. They also deliberated creating different rates for non-profit and profit groups to use the fields. This topic will likely wind up in a workshop in the near future.