Thursday, October 28, 1999

City & County of Honolulu

Sports community
opposes fees to
reserve areas in parks

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


For six months out of the year, Bob Kawamoto and the coaches and parents of the 7,000-member Hawaii Little League cut grass, pull weeds and level the fields that their kids play on.

So Kawamoto, like others in the amateur sports community, are not happy with a plan to charge a fee to organizations, or anyone, who reserves city facilities.

Council Budget Chairwoman Rene Mansho said yesterday that the idea came up when golfers, now facing a bill that would raise their fees $2 a round, suggested it was unfair that they are being singled out for a rate increase.

Mansho said city lawyers are now drawing up a bill that would look into fees for anyone who books facilities, even a family wishing to reserve a section of a park for a Saturday picnic.

"Whenever a public recreational facility is being reserved for exclusive use, there should be a fee assessed," Mansho said.

The fees would be nominal, she said, and will exclude Department of Education programs, if not others.

"As Little Leaguers, we maintain our own baseball fields in the public parks," Kawamoto said. "I think we're doing our share, too, by keeping the kids off the streets."

Kawamoto, Little League state administrator for 17 years and now Windward district administrator, said it's unfair to compare golfers with sports organizations.

"How many acres do you require for a golf course and how many acres do you use for a Little League field?"

Besides volunteering to help maintain facilities, members of the Lanikila Police Activities League hold fund-raisers for nets and other equipment necessary at their park, said adviser Wayne Kishida.

"We all help because they don't have enough groundskeepers and parks keepers," said Kishida, whose organization involves around 250 youths. "It doesn't make sense to charge fees when the community ends up maintaining it."

Kishida added: "When they start talking about assessing fees, I don't think they really know how much the community brings in to supplement whatever shortfalls of funds and services the city has."

Max Sword, state director of the American Youth Soccer Organization, said sports groups may be willing to pay fees if parks were better maintained.

"But at this point, they're not," Sword said. "The parks are in terrible shape, and you know what in the budget gets cut first -- it's the Parks and Recreation Department."

AYSO, with a membership of 16,000 youths on Oahu alone, is one of the soccer organizations talking to the city about taking over management of Waiola soccer complex, now under construction.

Rick Freehan, treasurer of the 14-state Region IV of the U.S. Youth Soccer Organization, said soccer groups are willing to take on that responsibility because there would be some control over who uses the facility.

Golfers justifiably pay a fee because "golfers are the only ones who have access to that facility," Freehan said.

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