Sports Council queries hugely increased hire costs

EDSACC oval the venue for the CC SportsFestEDSACC oval has been the venue for the CC SportsFest. Archive 2017

A review of community sports hire, including oval/field hire fees, conducted by the Central Coast Sports Council Inc, has revealed a huge increase in ground hire fees between May 2016 and September 2017.

According to the Sports Council, during that period, clubs within the old Gosford Local Government area experienced increases of between 6.25 per cent and 111 per cent. During the same period, codes within the old Wyong LGA saw decreases in their costs of between 11.45 per cent and 21.7 per cent. The Central Coast Sports Council Inc has subsequently called for fees to be reduced or at least frozen for three years in a submission responding to Central Coast Council’s 2018- 19 draft operational plan.

It has sent its submission to all 15 Councillors and held a meeting with Councillors to discuss its concerns. In its submission, Secretary/ Treasurer of the Sports Council, Ms Diane Dales, said: “There is no provision in the fees and charges to help struggling codes and clubs to continue playing or helping them to grow. “Due to the structure of field-based sports, they are an easy target to be charged fees, compared to other sports and recreation activities,” Ms Dales said.

“Sport is proven to improve people academically, boost self-esteem, reduce stress, embody teamwork, and most of all, improve health for people of all ages,” she said. “For this to be achieved the cost of participating in sport has to be affordable.” After closely examining the Council’s draft operational plan for 2018-19, the Central Coast Sports Council Inc sent Council’s Acting CEO, Mr Brian Glendenning, a list of 39 questions in a ninepage submission covering renovations, maintenance, capital works, ground fees and charges, ground training fees, ground lighting and other sundry items. The Sports Council has made representations to Council on behalf of clubs and codes across the whole new LGA, and Coast Community News’ sister publication, the Wyong Regional Chronicle, will report on matters relevant to the northern areas of the Coast.

In relation to the former Gosford LGA, the Sports Council has requested that fees and charges for Davistown, Eve Williams, Terry, Patrick Croke and Saratoga Ovals, which were increased to $1,230 during the Administration period, be charged at the old Gosford Council rate for level three grounds, which was $835 per ground. Central Coast Council had re-graded the grounds to Level 2 and increased their fees accordingly. Fred Pinkstone Oval, which has no amenities at all, and Kitchner Oval, which is a small ground with a toilet block, should be charged at $695, because they had been regraded by Central Coast Council from Level 10 to Level 2. “These grounds are small in size and they are only used for junior competitions and do not meet the criteria of a Level 2 Medium quality of facilities available,” Ms Dales said. “Due to the hefty increases in hire fees during the Administration period, fees for all other grounds not listed… [should] be frozen for three years,” she said.

“This will help the codes within the old Gosford LGA absorb the huge increases that have occurred since 2016- 17.” Should Council not approve those requests, the Sports Council has asked for all hire fees for field-based sports to be frozen for three years. The submission also calls for clubs who hire grounds on a seasonal basis to receive refunds if they do not use the fields for the whole 20-weeks charged, due to inclement weather or a ground being pulled from use for maintenance. It has also asked Central Coast Council to publish its fees and charges for seasonal field hire, showing field categorisation, which has not been made available to the public. The draft operational plan also stated that seasonal hire fees did not include finals series, which is at odds with a policy on Council’s website which does include finals.

“Sports Council requests that the fees and charges for seasonal hire be amended to include all final series games.” It has called for a five-year schedule of fees and charges to enable clubs and codes to better manage their finances. The Central Coast Sports Council’s submission also takes Central Coast Council to task over its ground training fees and ground lighting fees. “Prior to 2016-17, in the old Gosford LGA, there were no training fees charged on grounds that were hired on a seasonal basis,” Ms Dales said. “There was a fee charged for the use of lights for training, and that was based on the lux level of the lights and on an hourly basis. Use of a field with lights is now charged at $1,230 per season, or $61.50 per field per night on a casual basis. “If you use a field for training, but do not use lights, you are still charged $1,230 for a seasonable hire between the hours of 4:00pm to 9:30pm, or $61.50 per night on a casual basis.

“Not all clubs/codes train for five hours per night. “Clubs/codes that use a training field for less than five hours per night end up subsidising the clubs/codes that do. Costs associated with full marking of an athletic field and post removal and reinstatement have been removed from the operational plan, and Sports Council believes Council should be able to provide a price to clubs and codes in advance. Fees associated with keys and locks have also gone through the roof according to the Sports Council. In 2017-18, the fee for an unreturned key was listed as $580, but it is not listed in the draft plan of 2018-19. Likewise, key lock replacement was listed at $1,225 in 2016-17 but has not been listed since.

A new key bond fee has also been introduced, to be charged at $300 per facility, $500 for two sets per facility, or $2,000 per association. The bond fee for seasonal hirers set by Gosford Council in 2015-16 was a maximum of $1,000. Ms Dales said the Sports Council has held key bond money collected by the former Gosford Council since the 1980s and it has never had to be used. The Sports Council also wants to review the fees charged for regional sporting complexes and it is waiting on Council responses to questions about its capital works and maintenance costs for fields and grounds, before raising more questions in the public arena.

Source: Submission, Jun 12 Diane Dales, Central Coast Sports Council Interview, Jun 15 Executive members, Central Coast Sports Council Jackie Pearson, journalist