Saying the Ceres Youth Baseball (CYB) organization is not making the city whole to cover expenses at Costa Field, the Ceres City Council delved into an hour-and-a-half Study Session on Monday evening that pitched no changes - for now.
While city staff and the council gave high praise to CYB for a large baseball program - the program boasts about 1,000 players - they also voiced concerns that the group dominates the baseball complex at Smyrna Park for most of the year and that city taxpayers are subsidizing the youth program.
"The arrangement, from a staff perspective, doesn't work that well," complained City Manager Toby Wells on Monday.
He said it is time that the 17-year-old agreement is updated to help the city cover its expenses.
"The primary challenge here is that there's real costs," said Wells, "and right now the agreement is structured such that some of those real costs are absorbed by CYB and we don't have an accounting for that."
CYB officials have volunteered to pick up the lawn mowing to save the city money and are agreeable to passing on more money to the city, but admit they don't have a lot of money left over at the end of each season.
The council ran out of time before the 7 p.m. regular meeting and agreed to renew CYB's contract for use of the facility while the parties will negotiate changes to be reviewed later, perhaps in September.
Wells said the city's contracts with Ceres Youth Soccer Organization and CYB are different and is striving to see them on the same par. In a move toward that goal, the city suggested that CYB fork over 15 percent of the gross receipts from the concessions operating within the city-own facility much like the CYSO at Ceres River Bluff Regional Park. But past CYB president and board member Mike Borges balked and said a 15 percent cut would render the snack operation not worthwhile. He said the concessions raked in $97,229 last year with expenses totaling $91,136 for a profit of $6,093 which helped pay for umpires.
"If you want 15 percent of our total sales then we're going deeper in and we're not going to have enough money to even run it," said Borges.
During the season, the CYB snack bar runs five nights a week and all day Saturday and is operated by minimal paid staff and the use of volunteer parents.
Wells said it costs the city $100,865 annually to operate Costa Fields, of which $16,469 is for electricity, $20,000 for mowing and $23,640 in water costs and other costs.
CYB president Dave Miller said his group is agreeable to taking over janitorial and mowing and pass along an extra dollar per player to the city. Members already take care of the fields and some maintenance and clean-up after games. CYB also invests about $3,000 to $5,000 for clay and cinder for field maintenance and has shared in fencing costs, said Borges.
Wells said the different structures of agreements with CYB and CYSO creates problems for the city. CYB currently pays the city $5 per player. CYSO pays that plus $5 per hour for field rental for games and practices, which is a discount of $7 per hour for the normal rate. CYSO also pays the city 15 percent of all concession sales.
CYB has increased fees to players. In 2013 the charge was $80 per player. It is now $120, of which $40 can be made up through fundraiser participation.
In 2011, the city invested $2.5 million in rehabilitation of the facility.
Unlike CYSO, which pays for field use, CYB gets exclusive use of Costa Fields February through August. The domination of the field has meant others - such as the city's own recreation department - cannot use the city facility. Councilman Mike Kline suggested that he wanted to see the fields unlocked for community use outside of the CYB season. Vice Mayor Bret Durossette disagreed, saying "if we leave it open, it's going to be ruined."
Wells said opening the fields would require supervision to insure that misuse - such as bicycle riding on the diamonds - theft and vandalism would not occur.
Miller said his group is interested in being the clearinghouse for off-season use of the complex through a new website. That concept did not sit well with Mayor Chris Vierra.
"I'd be a little bit concerned that at that point that no citizens have the ability to utilize the field any time unless it's through CYB," said Vierra.