New Brunswick

Sports advocates get Moncton councillors to ditch youth user fees

Two sports advocates asked council to waive user fees for youth sports, and council agreed, cutting revenues next year by $25,000.

City waives $25,000 in revenue from youth sports groups fees for 2018

Moncton councillors passed a motion to waive user fees for children playing sports on fields and in gyms in 2018. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Two sports advocates convinced Moncton councillors on Monday to waive user fees for youth sports, a move that will cut revenues next year by $25,000.

Moncton has charged children $10 each per sport for activities played in gyms and on sports fields since 2004. Last year, council considered increasing the fee to $20 but did not move forward with the plan.

On Monday, Norval McConnell and Andrew Trites, who described themselves as concerned citizens, asked council to remove the fee altogether.

Trites said that he felt that by charging a usage fee, the city was double-taxing citizens who wanted to use sports facilities. He called it a "burr in the saddle" of parents putting their kids in sports. 

"We have young families with two, three, four kids that are playing basketball, hockey and so on and you're getting a user fee on top," said Trites, who coaches minor soccer, minor hockey, minor basketball, and is on the board of Codiac soccer.

Mayor Dawn Arnold said she has never received complaints about the $10 fee.

She also asked other councillors if constituents had mentioned it to them.

Coun. Pierre Boudreau said the issue "comes up every once in a while."

McConnell said he understands the $25,000 is money in the city's pocket that is hard to give up, but he doesn't believe in putting barriers up between kids and playing sports.

"If you want your kids to be happy and participate, they shouldn't have to pay on top of that to use the fields and infrastructure that we have."

McConnell also pointed out that youth sports bring people to the city through tournaments, with often families staying in hotels and eating in restaurants.

"We want to remind you that most of the youth groups give back in other ways," said McConnell.

He said not-for-profit sports groups often help fund field upkeep and equipment such as basketballs and scoreboards. These are budget items, McConnell said, that schools are often in dire need of.

But Coun. Blair Lawrence said he'd like to see a comprehensive study of youth sports groups and how they are funded, adding there are different funding models for teams requiring pool and ice time.

He wanted more information before removing the fee, expressing concern that hockey teams might also ask for their rental fees to be waived.

Coun. Bryan Butler, however, was ready for a decision.

"If these gentlemen are willing to come and fight the battle for their group we should be able to jump right in there and say, 'Hey listen, you know what? This year the $10 is gone.'"

Council voted to waive the fee for 2018, while conducting an analysis of youth sports subsidies and funding in the city.

McConnell and Trites told council they would like to help raise the 25,000 that won't be coming into the city's coffers this year. Councillors took them up on the offer.

The motion was passed and it will be brought forward at the next public council meeting.