By Brian Kelly
ARLINGTON — Irritated that the city is charging field use fees, the Arlington Soccer Club wants the city to pay for the field lights the club installed at Bill Quake Memorial Field in 1987.
If the city won’t pay the club $66,975, club officials said the soccer group wants to remove the high-powered lighting system mounted atop eight poles.
The dispute has been simmering for about six months. Soccer supporters say the city’s fees for using Quake Field are too much for the soccer club to bear.
"It’s not fair that we developed the property and now we’re having to pay. Something isn’t right here," soccer club president Steve Huston said.
Club officials say the lighting equipment and installation cost roughly $100,400. The $66,975 that the club wants represents two-thirds of the total cost. The lights were purchased with money raised through candy sales and other fund-raisers organized by the soccer club, with local businesses donating the light bulbs and poles.
So far, the city has been unwilling to give the lights back to the club or reimburse the group for the value of the poles and related equipment. The city’s parks board has researched the issue, and is recommending that the city keep the lights and not pay the club anything.
The city adopted field use fees in 1999, but the council cut the charges in half for 2000, the first year they were assessed, because soccer clubs and Little League groups had already adopted budgets for the year. Arlington collected $5,967 in field use fees last year.
The fees are currently $3.75 per child each year, but are expected to soon double to $7.50.
Roughly 400 boys and girls belong to the club, which also has about 100 adult players. Adult teams are charged $25 per game. The city also assesses a $15 per team scheduling fee at the start of the season.
A fee for field lights is also on the books, but currently isn’t being charged, said city administrator Kristin Banfield.
Quake Field, on 59th Avenue NE just north of the Arlington Boys &Girls Club, is one of the few facilities in the region that is lighted for night play. The 13-acre park has two full-sized soccer fields and two baseball diamonds.
Huston said the club has not gotten quality time slots or priority in game times since the city started scheduling the use of the field. Two groups from the club wanted to form adult teams and play at Quake Field, but were stymied by scheduling headaches.
"After two weeks of haggling over times, dates and all that, the teams just simply gave up," Huston said.
The user fees and scheduling hassles have pushed the club to find facilities elsewhere, Huston said. For the past few years, the club has been leasing 12 acres of land near Smokey Point Boulevard and Cemetery Road. Some games and practices are still held at Quake Field, however.
Field-use fees are needed to help the city recoup some of its costs, Banfield said. The fees also help pay for backstops, fences and new turf.
"In part, it’s because of the amount of use our fields get. We need to generate a little bit of income to assist in the maintenance and upkeep of the fields," Banfield said.
A public hearing on the lights has been scheduled for Dec. 17.
If the city pays for the lights, Huston said the club may bank that money for buying property for soccer fields. If the lights are returned, they may be stored for use later or donated to the new high school.
You can call Herald Writer Brian Kelly at 425-339-3422 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.