To help fund upgrades, operational costs and new equipment for city-owned sports facilities, the Parks and Recreation Board approved implementing a 5% increase to the capital improvement fee.

Among the sports complexes that will see a fee increase with the capital improvement fund are the Mitchell Activities Center, Cadwell Park, Pepsi Cola Sports Complex and the softball diamonds. The local sports associations that utilize the facilities are Mitchell Baseball Association, Dakota Wesleyan University baseball and softball, Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association and Mitchell Soccer Association. The capital improvement fee increase was approved with a 4-1 vote. Board member Chris Retterath represented the lone vote to deny the increase, and Board member Andy Jerke abstained from the vote, citing a conflict of interest.

“I talked to some of the athletic associations, and for the most part the entrance fees and concessions fees are what they use to pay our fees that we charge them,” Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell said. “Going after that fee change may be too much of a challenge for associations. The fees with the capital improvement fund would be for associations and not our own programs.”

At the Nov. 14 Parks and Recreation Board meeting, there were discussions of increasing entrance fees for some sports clubs such as the Mitchell Baseball Association, which uses Cadwell Park for some of its games and practices. Instead of increasing the entrance fees for spectators who attend games at city-owned facilities, Powell suggested to create the capital improvement fund for sports associations utilizing the city’s athletic facilities. Powell said 5% of those fees generated from the capital improvement fund would be allocated to make upgrades at the city’s sports facilities.

“We’re creating the capital improvement fund to make sure we direct funds right back into the facilities every sports associations and clubs are using,” Powell said. “We have old equipment at facilities and upgrades that are needed, so I think it will be a great thing in the long run for the sports teams and facilities.”

Powell used the Mitchell Activities Center as an example to explain the amount of expenses the city has to take on to improve the facility and upgrade aging equipment. According to Powell, the compressor room at the Activities Center is in need of replacing at a rough cost of $300,000 to $500,000, along with a zamboni that’s roughly 20 years old.

For the Activities Center ice arena that the local hockey and skating clubs use, the 5% increase bumps the rental per hour fee from the current rate of $63 to $66 for 2020.

The per-day softball and baseball diamond rental charge will increase from $32 to $34 in 2020. Lastly, the concessions stands rental fee at the softball and baseball diamonds, not including Cadwell Park, will jump from $300 to $315. Concessions rental fee at Cadwell Park will increase to $368 for 2020, an $18 increase from the current $350.

Board Vice President Denny Marek suggested the local sports associations that are seeing an increase seek out corporate sponsors for additional funding methods. Marek referenced how Rapid City and several other sports associations in similar-sized cities receive a healthy amount of funds from corporate sponsors.

“I know quite a few towns’ baseball clubs get a lot of money from corporate sponsors that pay for some of their expenses,” Marek said. “I think Mitchell Baseball Association and other sports clubs need to look at corporate America to help funding, so they aren’t ran out of town. But we need to make sure the city isn’t losing money either.”

Board President Brian Johnson supported the capital improvement fund and fee increases, but he requested for assurance that the funds be properly managed and allocated to the proper sports facilities.

“I want some assurance that it doesn’t get called a ‘slush fund’ and have it taken away from us as the board as soon as we collect the money,” Johnson said of the capital improvement fund, noting that scenario occurred several years ago.

Powell assured the money generated from the capital improvement fund would be properly managed and go toward the appropriate sports complexes and facilities.

Mowing boundary confusion

For the past several years, the Parks and Recreation Department’s forestry crew members have been mowing areas and boulevards in the city that are state-owned, providing lawn care to areas the city isn’t necessarily required to.

For example, the boulevards near Cabela’s along Interstate 90 are currently being mowed throughout the year by the Parks and Recreation Department, Powell said. However, those boulevards are owned by the South Dakota Department of Transportation, which means it’s technically the DOT’s responsibility to mow that area in the city.

Johnson said the DOT mows everything else along the Interstate, but questioned why they choose not to mow those areas in the city. In addition, Johnson said the Parks and Recreation Department is losing out on money every time a city crew member mows the areas that aren’t the city’s responsibility

“I don’t have a problem if we’re going to keep doing it, but someone needs to pay us for it. We’re spending time and money on properties that we have no control over,” Johnson said. “I mean it’s the state we’re talking about here, and they have more money than we do.”

Marty Barington, City Council liaison for the Parks and Recreation Board, said the city legally has the choice to opt out of mowing the areas owned by the DOT. However, Barington said the city runs the risk of poor aesthetics on a busy area that experiences plenty of traffic.

“We have to decide if we want to keep our city looking beautiful without getting reimbursed for mowing these areas. But if we don’t, what is going to make our city look like,” Barington asked.

Johnson understood Barington’s thought process, but he said it’s unfair to ask the Parks and Recreation Department to have foot the costs of mowing the areas owned by the DOT.