ALAMEDA -- The City Council has approved new fees for youth leagues and others wishing to use the city's parks and facilities, a change that officials say could make more field time available for rent.
League organizers will see the most significant change under the fees adopted Tuesday, with a new system based on an hourly rate instead of per participant, said Amy Woodridge, director of the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department.
"My goal is to create a more efficient use of the field space we have available," Woodridge said.
Currently youth leagues pay $5 per participant each season with a minimum charge of $500. But under the new fees the leagues will be charged $2 an hour for those with at least 75 percent registered as Alameda residents, and $3 an hour for those with fewer residents.
While the change may cost larger leagues more money, it will also discourage them from booking more field time than they use -- a scenario that a city audit last fall found sometimes happens -- thus opening up additional space, according to city officials.
The new fees also will allow leagues to offset any money they spend on maintenance, such as for infield dirt, as well as an offset of $7 per hour for the volunteer work, Woodridge said.
"This really is a win-win situation," she said. "It saves our park staff time and materials that we can put to use elsewhere."
The changes will kick in this fall. Making more fields available could affect what type of parks the city may need in the future, an issue that was highlighted last year when the council considered a proposal to swap a portion of the city-owned Chuck Corica Golf Complex for part of the Harbor Bay Business Park, where a new sports field was proposed. Supporters of the plan, which was ultimately rejected, pointed to the competition for securing sports fields.
"We may find our need for the kind of fields we already have may contract a little bit (as a result of the new fees)," City Manager John Russo said.
But Russo also said the changes will not help the city meet some recreational needs, including the demand for lighted, all-weather fields.
"What they will do is help to stop the bleeding," he said, adding that the new fees will give park officials more flexibility.
Councilwoman Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft questioned whether the city was charging enough after Woodridge said some Bay Area cities charge youth leagues $25 an hour to use sports fields.
"It would just be too much sticker shock to do everything all at once," Woodridge said about hiking fees now, "and it would be really unfair to the leagues."
Other changes include a new $25 fee for government agencies to rent the O'Club at Alameda Point and other facilities.
Slain trustee honored: Among other business, the council passed a proclamation honoring Berresford Bingham, a former trustee with the Alameda Unified School District who was slain in Oakland in January 2011. The proclamation noted Bingham's 22-year career with the U.S. Navy and described him as a "distinguished community leader who committed his life to social justice (and) working to improve the quality of life for all citizens."
At the time of his death, Bingham was an official with the Service Employees International Union. His killing remains unsolved.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.