Considering the impact COVID-19 has had on sports participation and revenues, the Mitchell Parks and Recreation Board raised the 2021 rate fees for the sports complexes by $1 per player.

Among the city-owned sports complexes that will see a $1 increase for rental fees are the Mitchell Activities Center, Pepsi-Cola Soccer Complex and Cadwell Sports Complex ball diamonds. Last year, the board approved a $3 increase in rate fees for the respective sports complexes that were approved during Thursday's meeting. Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell said he hopes the lower rate increases for 2021 will keep costs manageable for sports participation numbers to get back to the level they were prior to COVID-19.

“We’re just hoping to get athletes back in the programs when things get a little better, so we don’t want to hamper that with larger rate increases,” Powell said.

With the $1 increase, the Mitchell Activities Center -- which is the hockey complex that’s utilized by the Mitchell hockey and skating associations -- will cost $67 per hour to rent. For the Cadwell diamonds and Pepsi soccer complex, athletes 13 and over will see rates bump up to $20, while rates for athletes 12 and under are set at $10 for 2021. The fee changes for baseball and soccer athletes who utilize the city’s respective sports facilities also represent a $1 increase from the 2020 rates.

Since the pandemic began, Powell said there has been a significant reduction in participation numbers for sports programs that utilize the city’s facilities. According to Powell, some programs have seen a 40% drop in participation amid COVID-19.

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“Because of COVID-19 this year, and our programs being way down at almost every level, we’re just asking for a $1 increase at our sports complexes to do our best with cost recovery,” Powell said. “This is an area we continue to lose the most cost recovery in, and we’re working on getting our cost recovery up for the Parks and Recreation Department up to 50% that the board wanted in 2018. But with COVID-19 this year, we aren’t going to see that growth in cost recovery that we hoped for.”

As of 2019, the overall Parks and Recreation Department’s cost recovery was below 35%. Among the divisions within the Parks and Recreation Department, sports complexes had the lowest level of cost recovery at a little over 15% in 2019. The Recreation Center’s cost recovery was the highest among the department with a cost recovery rate of roughly 75% in 2019.

“We want to continue seeing the cost recovery growth, but we want to do that slowly so we are not raising fees too high at once,” Powell said. “Revenue is starting to rise in the overall Parks and Recreation Department, which has a lot to do with the Rec Center. We have seen nothing but growth since we opened the pool.”

While the sports complex fee changes were lower than previous years, rates for the concessions stands will go up $15 in 2021, marking a 3% increase. That will put rental fees for the concession stands at the baseball and softball complexes at $330, while Cadwell baseball stadium is set at $385. Powell said rising utility costs are the main reason to raise the fees charged to groups renting the concession stands.

Although the board approved setting the rate fees, Powell said the 2021 rates will be discussed and voted on once again in the future when each sports program that rents the city facilities finalizes their facility use agreements prior to the start of their seasons.