Pay to play! City quietly hikes recreation fees

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Tennis players are raising a racket over a scheme to double the fee to play the sport of kings on outdoor public courts, part of a citywide athletic fee hike that could make it more expensive to stay fit.

Under a quietly announced Parks Department’s proposal tennis fees will jump from $100 to $200 a year, and from $7 to $15 per hour, an effort to generate more revenue from public athletics.

Tennis players were obviously not in love with the idea.

“Doubling the fees is unreasonab­le,” said Robert Cooper, a Park Slope resident who was finishing a match Wednesday at the indoor Prospect Park Tennis Center on Parkside Avenue. “It’s not showing any fairness to the general public.”

Tennis aficionado Pierre Reveilles agreed: “It’s robbery! It’s not worth the price, especially when the courts are in such bad shape.”

And the fee increase only enforces the stereotype that the game is an elitist sport.

“You are taxing a minority of people who are already overburdened — and now this will be prohibitive to anyone deciding between food or medical care,” said Flatbush resident and tennis player Glenn Blake.

Even a Parks official blasted the hike.

“This will absolutely exclude people who can’t afford to pay the fees,” said Paul Campbell, the director of the indoor tennis center, which is operated by the Prospect Park Alliance and is not hiking its hourly $34–$74 fees during the indoor season.

It is not just tennis players that are being pinched. The proposal also calls for:

• Fees at recreation centers to jump from $75 to $150 a year at facilities with indoor pools; from $50 to $100 a centers without a pool; and from $10 to $25 for seniors.

• Baseball field fees, whose rates vary, will increase by 60 percent.

• Basketball court fees will increase from about $5 an hour to $8.

In total, the hikes could generate up to $4 million a year. Last year, tennis fees, last raised in 2003, brought $1.8 million to city coffers, Parks said.

The city said it put out notice of the increase a month ago, and would be reviewing the comments made at a single, unpublicized public hearing held last Tuesday on the far west side of Manhattan.

But critics said the notice was about as loud the crowd during a match point at Wimbledon.

“We got no warning,” said Windsor Terrace resident Amelia Costigan, who moderates a news group called Kensington Windsor Terrace Neighbors. “This is a regressive tax on the middle class and working people.”

If approved, tennis fees would increase in April, membership fees would increase July 1, and field use fees no earlier than fall 2011.

Tennis advocates said they are facing disproportionately higher costs per hour than other sports, noting that with team sports, the cost is less since more players absorb it.

“Someone in city government has decided that rich people are playing tennis, so we’ll just charge them way more,” said Sean Hoess, who runs a tennis group in McCarren Park, where courts were so shoddy that group members renovated them themselves last year. “The city is gouging us.”

Not so, claims Parks.

“Ballfield users actually pay far more than tennis users over the course of the year,” according to Parks spokesman Phil Abramson, who said baseball and softball leagues pay by the hour and shell out “tens of thousands of dollars” over the course of the year, which is a third of the tennis season, which runs from April to November.

“There is no comparable tennis permit for ballfields,” he said.

And regarding the conditions of Brooklyn tennis courts, Parks spokewoman Vickie Karp added, “We do our best to maintain them in and keep them in shape at all times. We are always open to hearing from anyone through 311 about a condition we may not already be addressing.”

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Reader Feedback

Mark Lieber from Brooklyn says:
Tennis...the sport of kings? Who edits this stuff?
Jan. 27, 2011, 2:25 pm
WW from Bay Ridge says:
Remind me again why we needed Mayor for Life Mike to take us thru these "tough economic times" in a third term. There is nothing he has done that is any different than ANY fill in the blank democrat.
Jan. 27, 2011, 11:08 pm
Sean Hoess from Williamsburg says:
Since Phil Abramson actually dared to say that "ballfield users actually pay far more than tennis users over the course of the year," I feel the need to respond.

Ballfield users *may* pay more in gross than tennis players because there are many more ballfields in the city than there are tennis courts. This is irrelevant -- the real question is what it costs for one person to participate in a particular sport. That is the measure of the impact of a fee on an individual.

Take a typical softball game. You have 20 players (two teams of 9 plus 2 subs) who play for two hours at a proposed Parks fee of $12.50 per hour. So the cost per person is 2 * 12.50 / 20, or $1.25 per person. The city makes $25.

Take a tennis game of the same length. You have 2 players for two hours at $15 per hour. Cost per person is 2 * 2 * $15 / 2, or $30 each. The city makes $60.

The tennis player actually is paying TWENTY FOUR TIMES what the softball player is paying on a per person, per hour basis. Looking at it another way, the softball game would cost SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS if it were priced in the same way as tennis games are under the proposed Parks regulations (20 players times $15 per hour times 2 hours).

If there were some way to explain this -- for example, if it were vastly more expensive to maintain tennis courts than grass fields -- then the tennis community might be able to accept some cost differential. But the fact is that tennis courts are likely *cheaper* to maintain than softball courts -- and the city doesn't maintain them anyway.

Simply put, the city has arbitrarily decided to tax a particular sport out of existence, while favoring other sports with low fees (softball, baseball, soccer) or no fees (basketball, handball).

That is unfair, and we will continue to embarrass the Parks Department until this is corrected.
Jan. 28, 2011, 12:25 am
Boris from Germany says:
Real tennis – one of several games sometimes called "the sport of kings" – is the original indoor racquet sport from which the modern game of lawn tennis (usually simply called tennis), is descended. It is also known as court tennis in the United States,[1] formerly royal tennis in Australia,[2], now real tennis, and courte-paume in France (a reference to the older, raquetless game of jeu de paume, the ancestor of modern handball and raquet games; many French real tennis courts are at jeu de paume clubs).
Jan. 28, 2011, 12:33 am from Brooklyn and the Outer Boroughs says:
How many parents will be unable to involve their children in this sport because of increased fees?

And, with all of the current city administration's focus on healthy living, why are they continuously create barriers to enjoying the very activities which will healthier lifestyles?
Jan. 28, 2011, 2:57 am
Wendy from Greenpoint says:
Bottom line is the city neglects tennis courts. Instead of a fair 10-15%, they choose a 100% increase. In the WSJ Parks said they don't know how much they spend on repairing courts. I'll give them a hint - its NOTHING!! Fix the courts or keep rates the same. Its not fair at all and you know it.
Jan. 28, 2011, 10 am
Mark Lieber from Brooklyn says:
Boris, I can read Wikipedia too. In common parlance, "the sport of kings" refers to horse racing.
Jan. 31, 2011, 7:44 am
Boris from Germany says:
A fact is a fact Lieberman.
Jan. 31, 2011, 12:58 pm
Mark Lieber from Brooklyn says:
Someone so devoted to facts might have gotten my name right.
Feb. 1, 2011, 7:49 pm
Boris from Germany says:
Fact #387

It is rather easy to goad the middle class.
Feb. 2, 2011, 12:25 am
Pietro from Greenpointe says:
No one stops you from playing baseball, soccer or basketball at any of hundreds of locations.

Only the tennis players have to get a picture ID, pay through the nose, and deal with officious little pricks in their seasonal Parks Dept. uniforms.

What rubbish--MAYBE you pay for softball, if you're in a big league, with a set league night, use the lights and want the reserved time. You can play recreationally--say, hitting flyballs to your son--anytime you want, no permit or fees.

Only tennis players get treated like this. NYC is an over-rated bloat-bag of a crap-sandwich city. People should stop acting like their special because they live here, this town is an unpleasant ——ewagon of nuisances and cops.
June 25, 2014, 3:36 pm

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