Parks & Rec Recommends ‘Fields Use’ Fees for Additional Sports Groups in New Canaan 


The turf athletic fields at New Canaan High School. Credit: Michael Dinan

Members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their most recent meeting voted unanimously to approve a new slate of fees for groups using town-owned playing fields. 

The fees are to go to a dedicated fund held by the New Canaan Athletic Foundation for the maintenance and upgrade of fields and facilities at locations including New Canaan High School, as per a formal agreement between the nonprofit organization and the town, according to Commissioner Sally Campbell.

Youth sports teams in New Canaan already are being assessed a “fields usage fee” on a per player, per season basis, Campbell said during Parks & Rec’s Nov. 13 meeting, held in Lapham Community Center. 

“There were a couple of groups that do use the athletic fields that kind of do not fall under that umbrella, so we met to see if we could bring them under the umbrella because they do use the athletic fields and they do use the dirt fields, and we came to the decision that these groups probably should be charged a fee,” Campbell said.

Asked which groups she referred to, Campbell said that men’s softball, flag football and very young soccer players were to be paying a fee “and then it kind of fell through the cracks, so we want to formalize that.”

A fee also will be assessed to runners using Waveny trails in the fall.

Following the Commission’s 8-0 vote, groups that now will pay a $25 per player fee include adult rec softball, men’s soccer, men’s lacrosse and Canons baseball; a $20 fee will be assessed to rec flag football players; and a $10 fee will be assed to rec soccer, rec field hockey, young New Canaan Football Club players and participants in a fall track program that uses Waveny.

Those voting included Chair Rona Siegel, Campbell, Secretary Francesca Segalas and Commissioners Carl Mason, Doug Richardson, Matt Konspore, Laura Costigan and Hank Green. Commissioners Gene Goodman, Jack Hawkins and Steve Haberstroh were absent. 

The recommended fees will go to the Board of Selectmen for a vote, Campbell said.

Campbell said in a memo distributed to commissioners that the proposed fees were discussed at an Oct. 29 meeting attended by herself, Richardson, Recreation Director Steve Benko and NCAF Board of Directors Chairman Mike Benevento and Treasurer Andy Gordon. The “Fields Meeting” had not been publicly noticed. (Campbell, who has been cited for holding non-public meetings in the past, as well as apparent conflicts of interest, ceased serving as Parks & Rec chair in March and said she’d serve on the appointed body through year’s end.)

Asked by Segalas about the feel for running at Waveny, Campbell said a youth program serving fifth- through eight-graders called “New Canaan Blazers” “has a lot of participation” and that the group uses the NCHS track and in the fall trains on the park’s trails.

Costigan asked how the town is weighing maintenance of track use versus the Waveny trails, and how the different tiers of fees were identified. 

Benko said that some programs “are charging a substantial fee for the kids.” For example, he said, kids are playing $40 to play in the town’s rec soccer programs in the spring and fall and “if I have to add $25 to the fee, that will turn kids off sport.”

“We don’t make money, it’s all parent volunteers,” he said. “These organizations now, with exception of football, are going mostly to paid coaches so they are charging kids a substantial amount of money $300 or $400 a season. The track program was about $300 last spring for kids.”

The fees will be built into registration costs for the various sports programs, Campbell said. In all, the fees are expected to bring in about $54,000, Benko said.

If approved by the selectmen, the youth sports and some other programs would start to pay the fees in the spring, while the Recreation Department programs would start charring in the fall, Benko said.

10 thoughts on “Parks & Rec Recommends ‘Fields Use’ Fees for Additional Sports Groups in New Canaan 

  1. The Commission should at least label this “fee” correctly. It is a tax on New Canaan families who happen to have school aged children. I hope our “anti tax” first selectman will take notice.

    • Hey John – The thing is, these fields and their maintenance need to be covered. The purpose of the fee is the avoid pulling more from the tax-payers.. so while maybe it can be seen as a tax by some, how would this be any different to paying for a pool or paddle pass. The fields, especially the turf ones require regular updates to keep them usable.. it’s all about planning to avoid a shortfall IMO.

      • Nick, I absolutely understand that and am in favor of participants paying their fair share for maintenance. But I thought kids’ sports teams, including both those organized by the Town and those organized by others, already are paying fees to use the fields and that those fees are funded by the parents of kids who play the sports. Isn’t that correct? I just think we should be honest about what is already being paid and how this proposal will increase that burden.

    • Paul, Apparently there’s a group called the ‘Blazers’ that runs through Waveny in the fall. It’s being classified as one of the youth sports programs that should pay a fee for “fields usage” just like others that play on artificial turf or baseball/softball diamonds—in this case, the trails. -Mike

  2. Will joggers be stopped in the middle of a run and “carded”? And, who will do the checking …. animal control?

    Will walkers have to pay a fee also?

  3. I am concerned about families for whom the fee would be a financial burden. Participation in athletic sports has important health benefits that the Town should be willing to invest in.

  4. Why stop at “joggers”? What about dog walkers? Cyclist ? They all contribute to trail erosion as well. Tack a fields fee onto each dog license issued. BTW what ever happened to the thousands of dollars in fees that were supposed to be generated from the new fields? We were sold on the idea that people were going to flock to the town for all these big events that would be taking place at new facilities. They have not seemed to materialize. I honestly do not understand the charter of this Recreation Commission. Its seems like a lot of time is spent impeding recreation as opposed to promoting it.

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