Modesto Youth Soccer Association $5 parking fee upsets parents

09/19/2013 12:19 AM

09/19/2013 6:20 AM

The Modesto Youth Soccer Association is about halfway through its inaugural 10-week season at Mary Grogan Community Park, a roughly $10million state-of-the-art soccer complex with seven lighted soccer fields, a 532-space parking lot and a concession stand.

But the association has drawn a yellow card from parents who are upset that it is charging $5 for “convenience parking” for the 90 parking spaces closest to the soccer fields. This is the first time the MYSA has charged for parking for its recreational league. Some parents say it’s wrong to pay to park at a city-owned, taxpayer-funded facility.

The parking discord is part of the growing pains the MYSA is undergoing as it moves into a new facility and raises its profile in the youth soccer world. One parent also said the association has not done a good enough job communicating with its soccer families.

“The parking fee (was) ... not disclosed openly to parents, participants and stakeholders equally,” wrote Modesto resident Justin Krone on The Bee’s Facebook page about the issue. Krone was one of dozens of people who have weighed in on the issue via Facebook. “The reason behind the need for paid parking has not been disclosed.”

MYSA and city officials say they understand parents’ frustration. But they say the soccer association has incurred additional, unexpected costs in operating the soccer facility and needs the extra revenue it receives through convenience parking to offset those costs.

MYSA officials expected about 500 cars on a typical Saturday for recreational soccer. Instead, more than 1,000 cars are filling the parking lot as well as the dirt overflow lot and the parking lots at nearby Enochs High School. The MYSA has installed fencing in the overflow lot at a cost of $2,500 to better manage the parking there. It’s also brought in additional staff.

Convenience parking makes up about 10 percent of all the parking spots, officials say. The rest of the parking spots are free, and MYSA officials say they have no plans to change that. The MYSA board also decided at its Tuesday meeting not to charge an entrance fee to the soccer complex.

“It was not MYSA’s preference to charge for parking,” said Mark Vallee, the association’s executive director. “But we’re concerned about our finances. And rather than raise fees for everyone, we decided to provide an opportunity for folks who want to pay for a service.”

The additional cost of running its 10-week recreational league is just one of several financial challenges the MYSA is facing at its new home.

The city and the MYSA have entered into a partnership at Mary Grogan Community Park. The city had the capital funding to build the soccer complex – which is the first phase of the 42-acre park in northeast Modesto – but does not have operating funds to maintain the park.

That’s where the partnership comes in. In exchange for 4,000 hours of free use of the soccer fields each year, MYSA is running the soccer complex on behalf of the city and paying $169,000 of the $209,000 in annual maintenance costs. MYSA also has to raise $2.1million over 14 years for a turf replacement fund for the complex’s three artificial turf fields.

Vallee said he and his board of directors knew they faced a financial challenge in partnering with the city but believed it was worth the risk.

He said the soccer complex allows MYSA members to play at a first-class venue, which raises the prestige of the MYSA recreational league and AJAX United, its competitive program. It also consolidates operations. Before Mary Grogan opened a few months ago, MYSA had to juggle play for its 3,000 members at more than a dozen venues because Modesto did not have a soccer complex.

“This was such a great opportunity,” Vallee said.

MYSA expects to raise money for the maintenance costs by holding competitive soccer tournaments, soccer clinics and other special events. The money will come from field rentals, concession stand sales and paid parking.

AJAX United is holding a tournament the last weekend of September that will bring in 125 teams and more than 1,000 players from throughout Northern California and northern Nevada. Vallee said the MYSA board voted Tuesday to charge $10 per car for parking each day of the tournament, or $17 for a two-day parking pass. The city will need to approve the amount of the parking charges.

The parking charge will be for the 532-space parking lot, the dirt overflow lot and Enochs High. Staff at the high school will collect the parking charge. MYSA will have to share the parking revenue at Enochs with the high school. Vallee said it’s the norm to charge for parking at tournaments. He said paid parking accounts for more than half of the revenue the MYSA will collect from a tournament or other special event.

For its own season-ending tournament for recreational players, Vallee said MYSA will charge for only the 90 convenience parking spots.

The MYSA board voted to continue the convenience parking charge for the rest of its recreational league season. Modesto Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods Director Julie Hannon will have to approve that, and she said she expects she will.

Vallee said MYSA has lined up 10 special events, which it expects will bring in $100,000 of the $169,000 it will need to pay the city for maintenance costs. MYSA officials are working to find additional special events. MYSA also has to pay $50,000 this year toward the turf replacement fund. Vallee said First Valley Credit Union has committed to giving $25,000 to the fund.

Krone, his wife and two daughters have been involved in MYSA soccer for about a decade. He said it’s been a great experience for his children and he wants MYSA to continue to prosper. But he said the association has failed to communicate with its soccer families since moving into Mary Grogan Community Park.

MYSA has charged for convenience parking for two Saturdays, but Krone said he was not able to get any answers on why the association was doing that. He said even his younger daughter’s coach did not have any information. There also were rumors MYSA was going to charge $4 per person to enter the soccer complex.

“Communication is the key,” he said. “Post it on your website, put it in the registration packets, tell the coaches. ... Without the parents and the kids, the league does not exist. They just need to communicate to us.”

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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