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American Canyon Junior Wolves football

American Canyon Junior Wolves 8-and-under play the Napa Valley Jets at Silverado Middle School in September 2017.

School district officials in Napa hope that raising rental fees for its athletic fields, gyms, swimming pools and theaters can cover more of the cost of upkeep, as community sports programs increase their activity – and wear and tear – on properties originally designed solely for students.

Starting in July 2020, youth sports leagues and other outside groups will pay the Napa Valley Unified School District more by the hour for the use of campus property under a new rental plan approved Thursday by the district board.

In many cases, fees will go up by a few dollars per hour – but the plan also replaces a longstanding pay-per-athlete policy on outdoor fields with an hourly use rate NVUSD said will recover more of what it spends on maintenance and repairs.

District leaders say the fee increases, NVUSD’s first in several years, are meant to help the district keep up with heavier use of athletic facilities that in some cases are decades old, and are seeing heavier and more frequent use with a larger and wider array of sports activities.

These fee increases are occurring as the district is currently trimming costs, closing two elementary schools and canceling a new middle school in American Canyon due to reduced revenue from declining enrollment.

Nonprofit groups that currently pay $20 an hour to use large gyms will be charged $24, and the use of a grade-school multipurpose room will cost $12.77 hourly instead of $10. At Vintage and American Canyon high schools, the pool rental fee will rise from $25 to $29.10 per hour.

Pricing changes will be more radical for those using NVUSD’s outdoor fields, where the existing model of charging nonprofits $15 a player for a full season of use returns only about $300 to the district for a season of use by a typical soccer league, according to Mike Pearson, assistant superintendent for operational services. “Everyone who uses those fields understands it’s a great deal,” he told board members.

Beginning next summer, outdoor field fees will be tiered by size and purpose. Elementary school fields will be offered at $4.71 an hour, high school baseball diamonds at $7.78 and artificial-turf fields at $49.41.

Even after the 2020 increases, none of the fees will cover a majority of the school district’s upkeep and capital costs on each venue, Pearson said. For example, the new hourly rate on grade-school fields is expected to cover half of NVUSD’s direct costs, compared to 25 percent for the synthetic-field rental rate. The higher charge for renting a large gym will equal about 12 percent of its operating cost, which NVUSD estimates at more than $200 an hour.

Even at relatively low percentages of facilities’ full cost of upkeep, a director with a Napa youth basketball circuit aimed at middle- and high-school students warned further fee hikes could intolerably strain some such programs.

“For us to pay a 24 percent rental increase we’d have to reduce court time, raise our registration fees, or end the entire program,” Richard Beck, treasurer of Napa Valley Optimist Youth Basketball, told district staff. “It is not (students’) interest that keeps them from playing, it’s the expense.”

NVUSD’s board also accepted a three-year agreement with the Napa that will increase the city’s payments to the district from $130,000 to $225,000 annually to school facilities for city-sponsored sports camps community leagues and summer swimming. Under the deal, with the City Council approved in October, Napa and the school district will work toward a longer-term pact in which the city would assume more day-to-day control over some on-campus facilities during summer vacation and non-school periods.

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You can reach Howard Yune at 707-256-2214 or hyune@napanews.com

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City of Napa/Town of Yountville Reporter

Howard Yune covers the city of Napa and the town of Yountville. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.