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story.lead_photo.caption Konner King, 11, of Springdale takes part in a drill Jan. 10 during practice with the Bentonville Parks and Recreation junior tennis program at Memorial Park in Bentonville. - Photo by Ben Goff

BENTONVILLE -- City leaders are considering charging those who live outside the city more to participate in its parks and recreational programs.

David Wright, parks and recreation director, discussed with the City Council how to pay for more amenities because many of the department's programs are reaching capacity.

Fee increases

The Parks and Recreation Department fee increases include:

Community Center programs:

^2017 (Members/Nonmembers)^2018(Members/Nonmembers)

• Camp soccer, ages 3-5^$100/$100^$110/$110

• Camp soccer, ages 6-16^$140/$140^$150/$150

• Camp soccer, under 16^$150/$150^$160/$160

• Camp soccer, goal keeper/scorer^$145/$145^$150/$150

• Camp Lego, Mind Craft^$125/$135^$135/$145

• Camp Lego, Star Wars^$125/$135^$135/$145

• Camp Lego, Comic Creator^$125/$135^$140/$150

• Camp Lego, Mixed Camp^$125/$135^$135/$145

• Camp Lego, Mega Mine Craft^$125/$135^$135/$145

• Camp Lego, Carnival Fun^$125/$135^$135/$145

• Camp Lego, Pirate Quest^NA/NA^$135/$145

• Camp Broadway^$125/$135^$135/$145

• Camp Video Game^$140/$150^$150/$160

• Art, Mommy and Me^$60/$65^$40/$50

• Art, ages 4-5^$60/$65^$40/$50

• Art, ages 5-12^$60/$65^$40/$50

• CPR Certification Class^$95/$105^$100/$110

• Babysitting Certification Class^$90/$100^$100/$110

Outdoor and Downtown Activities Center programs:

^2017^2018

• Bentonville Half Marathon^$60^$65

• Youth Soccer, under 8^$70^$75

• Youth Soccer, under 10^$85^$90

• Youth Soccer, under 12^$85^$90

• Youth Soccer, junior high^$85^$90

• Tennis, semi-private lesson^$25^$30

• Tennis, group private lesson^$15^$20

Source: Bentonville Parks and Recreation

Just a little more than 50 percent of the participants in the youth sport programs are not city residents, Wright gave as an example. The department serves those who live in the Bentonville School District boundaries, not just the city limits. The Bentonville School District reaches into Cave Springs, Bella Vista, Centerton and parts of Rogers.

"However, that does create a burden to those who live in our community," he said. He explained the department can't build more parks and amenities with its current budget because so much maintenance is required for the parks and programs it has now.

For example, Wright said the city has enough baseball and softball fields to serve city residents; however, more will be needed if the department wants to continue to serve those in outlying communities.

Officials started the discussion of raising fees for nonresidents during the process of developing the Play Bentonville Plan, the 10-year master plan for the Parks Department. Implementation of the plan is estimated to cost between $50 million and $60 million.

Council member Bill Burckart said he'd like to see the city's park system remain available for those who live in smaller cities or towns that don't have the same amenities. He added the discussion needs to get going about how to pay for the needed capital improvements.

Council member Stephanie Orman suggested opening up registration to city residents before allowing nonresidents to enroll. It would give residents first dibs into programs and may keep fees from being increased. The department would need to know how many people should be in each program, Wright said. Registration would be cut off when that number is reached.

"It's important that we maintain quality over quantity in our programs," he said. "These are problems, but they're very good problems."

Jason Holyfield, softball coach and vice president of the Bentonville Youth Softball League, said it's hard to know what impact increasing fees for nonresidents would have to the league or his team until more specifics are known.

"If they double the fee, then it would be very impactful," he said in a phone interview Friday. "If they say we're going to charge $10 more, I doubt there would be much of an impact."

Holyfield estimated that about eight or nine of his 12 players lived outside city limits last year.

There also are opportunities for the league and community -- such as local businesses sponsoring teams -- that could be looked at as well, Holyfield said.

Changes to resident and nonresident fees were not part of this year's fee changes, which the council approved without discussion Tuesday.

Costs decreased for the three art programs at the Community Center and increased for the other 22 programs. There are 172 programs and memberships that have fees. The increases range between $5 and $10.

NW News on 01/16/2018

Print Headline: Officials discuss increasing park fees for nonresidents

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