By Christina De Paris
For Hometown News
DAYTONA BEACH - When Thomas Rowland was young, decades ago, city-owned fields were open to practice and play on. They were never inaccessible.
Now, the city looks to charge little league programs, such as the Daytona Beach Pop Warner Association, a usage fee for the first time ever to practice and compete on the fields at Derbyshire Park.
Mr. Rowland, local Pop Warner commissioner, said if the city imposes the fees, it could cripple his program and leave hundreds of kids unable to participate, since they'd have to increase registration costs.
"If they charge us anything we might as well shut our program down," he said, "because we just don't have that kind of money. We're not supporting kids when we're taking away programs like this. If we don't take care of these kids now, the police chief is going to be taking care of them."
Percy Williamson, the city's director of leisure services, told Mr. Rowland the program would be subject to a daily $75 fee for the use of each field at Derbyshire. Needing four fields, the daily total would reach $300 for just a practice day. Game days would cost the league $400, after allocating $1,000 for officials.
Mr. Rowland has already created a schedule for the upcoming season, and presented it to the Volusia and Brevard County Pop Warner Association last week in Titusville.
"You just can't wait in the ninth hour to try to tell us that you're going to make a change. You just can't do it that way," Mr. Rowland said.
Some help might be on the way, though. An interlocal agreement between the city of Daytona Beach and Volusia County School Board could soon allow for leagues to access public school facilities in order to offset an increased rental rate of Municipal Stadium proposed by the city.
"I think it will allow for Municipal Stadium to continue to have high school activity, which is a good thing, and it will also enable other programs to utilize other facilities that have already been built," said Saralee Morrissey, director of site acquisitions and intergovernmental coordination for the county school board.
Mr. Rowland has also informed the Pop Warner Association that the city would allow the Daytona Beach leagues to use the fields at Hinson and Campbell middle schools at no charge. The Daytona Beach City Commission will have a final vote on the agreement at their first meeting in August.
"Football fields are at a premium right now, so to have these two available will be a big help," Mr. Williamson said.
However, Hinson and Campbell facilities don't meet certain requirements, according to the Pop Warner Association commissioners. Without access to restrooms, a concession stand and a proper score board, the fields can't be used for football games.
The other 12 commissioners in the association were shocked to learn of a possible fee for the Daytona Beach leagues, Mr. Rowland said. None of the 12 programs pay a fee to use their local facilities.
The Daytona Beach Pop Warner Association also incorporates tutoring in their program, which requires all players maintain a 2.0 GPA in order to play, but the city might impose a charge to use the facilities for tutoring as well.
"If I don't have a building for (the tutors), I can't have them sit out in the sun trying to teach a kid," Mr. Rowland said. "The city of Daytona should be embarrassed the way we deal with our kids here."
Mainland and Seabreeze high schools will continue to use Municipal Stadium for athletics, and pay a certain rental rate that is agreed upon through contract by the start of the school year, and theoretically, the city will be able to house programs and run leagues using existing facilities.
The agreement will be effective for one year, and either party can terminate the agreement.