ENGLEWOOD — Operating costs at the Englewood Sports Complex have increased, and some athletics groups say they are paying the price.
Costs to maintain the facility have risen over the past three fiscal years from $879,377 in 2010 to $931,148 in 2012. Gross and net revenues increased from 2010 to 2011 — topping out at $43,096 — but fell to $38,421 in 2012, according to Sarasota County Public Information Officer Curt Preisser.
Preisser said the rising operating cost is due to a reduced staff and increased spending needed to maintain the facilities as it ages. The decrease in revenue, he suspects, is due to the location.
“Englewood Sports Complex (at 1300 S. River Road) is located away from I-75 and therefore it’s not one of the more visible facilities we have,” he said.
Preisser said all the county parks have felt some economic impact in recent years.
“As the economy tightened, people were watching their money a lot more closely,” he said. “One of the things people stopped doing is leisure activities. We definitely noticed a change due to the economy.”
Carolyn Brown, Sarasota County Parks and Recreation Manager, said the parks are not necessarily built to make money — she admits the park doesn’t pay for itself — but are for public enjoyment.
“In general, people pay programming fees and/ or fees for exclusive use and that’s how we gain revenue,” Brown said.
The fees to use the park’s amenities, she said, are set by Sarasota County commissioners. But some say the charges aren’t always equitable.
Nathan Gray, owner of Charlotte County Adult Sports League, says adult leagues pay far more than youth leagues to use the facilities. The county’s pricing structure, he said, is the problem. “It’s based on what is assessed by the county. Now that’s fine and dandy, but you’re talking Sarasota County, which overall, is a fairly large county. It is a very wellpopulated county and has quite a bit of money in it. When it comes to a park like Englewood Sports Complex, which overall I would say is a much lower and smaller area, they’re kind of using big-city numbers to work a small-town program,” he said.
Jeanne O’Rourke, President of the Miss Englewood Girls Fastpitch Softball League, said she encountered a problem trying to get a place for the girls to play.
“We had one field. It took us five years of fighting for another field to finally get another field from the county. In the spring, I have to share it with baseball. When you’re talking about the use, that’s the biggest thing that comes to my mind,” she said. “It’s been a struggle for us when you have so many girls and have to put them over on an adult field to practice instead of their regulation field. (Aside from that) the park is wonderful.”