Parks Dept. shifts softball to major league

Photo by CherylHolt,

Photo by CherylHolt,

On the heels of the U.S. women dominating the diamond in Olympic softball this week, the Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department received approval from the City Council to contract with Major League Softball, Inc. (MLS), for adult softball league services, a shift that will save the city money and also lower fees for participants.

While Councilman Dr. Dan Secord praised the cost efficiency involved in privatizing recreational services, Councilman Das Williams expressed some concern that a trend toward privatization might ultimately take money out of the pockets of local residents. However both men supported the proposal, in a unanimous vote. Councilman Brian Barnwell was absent.

Originally the department proposed increasing league fees to cover a higher percentage of the program costs. However, it received “numerous amounts of public comment that the fee increases would be prohibitive to the players and continue to limit the teams that were participating,” said Sarah Clayton, recreation programs manager. When efforts to find a nonprofit agency to take over the program failed, the city then turned to MLS, which currently serves 27 cities and counties in Southern California and has been in existence since 1986. MLS will provide their services for four softball seasons a year. We’re currently only doing two seasons, said Clayton.

By outsourcing the softball leagues, the city will save a minimum of $37,000 over the next two years, said Acting Parks and Recreation Director Nancy L. Rapp.

In addition, the fees will be reduced for program participants: from $630 to $538 for a nine-week season and from $840 to $654 for a 12-week season. “So it’s a good plus for participants that want to engage in the program,” said Clayton.

“We expect that numbers which have declined in recent years — from 352 teams in Fiscal Year ’03 to 242 teams in Fiscal Year ’04 — Major League Softball says to us that they hope to bring it back up to a level about 480 teams playing per year,” said Clayton. “So we hope to revitalize the softball and do it in a very quality way.”

Santa Barbara’s agreement with MLS will run for two years. League registration will start in mid-September and field renovation will also take place then, said Clayton. “We hope to start leagues in the first week of October.”

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on August 26, 2004.

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