Pay to play! Free volleyball hours at Pier 6 are curtailed

Pay to play! Free volleyball hours at Pier 6 are curtailed
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A co-ed volleyball league will take over Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park for two nights a week in exchange for providing free public workshops and funding for court maintenance — the latest sign that public-private partnerships are shoring up the waterfront park’s revenues.

Metro Beach Sports, an organizer of volleyball leagues citywide, will host tournaments and coach children and adults at the park’s new sand courts as part of a pilot program that began on July 18.

The new program, which runs until September, turns all three of the currently free courts into reserved fields for co-ed teams and paid individual play.

“It’s a trial program, and we have high hopes for it,” said Nancy Webster, executive director of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy. “A very limited amount of league play will subsidize free public programming and court maintenance and add a public benefit to the courts.”

Leagues will play on Monday and Wednesday nights and one weekend day a month, and park-goers will be able to reserve courts during select prime-time slots for $25 per hour — with a maximum of three reservations per user.

Paying to play is nothing new, but the Conservancy’s partnership is different because, unlike the Parks Department, Brooklyn Bridge Park doesn’t charge the teams a permit fee. Instead, Metro Beach Sports and Brooklyn Bridge Park will split revenues from team fees.

In the best-case scenario, the partnership will gain $54,000 in gross revenue, minus the $38,000 expense of running the leagues, workshops and administration. The net of $16,000 will be split between Metro Beach Sports and the park.

Such arrangements for leagues are not uncommon, even in public city parks. Leagues that use Parks Department fields pay an hourly rate, such as $25 for lighted ball fields and $12.50 for soft-surface volleyball courts.

Agency spokeswoman Trish Bertuccio said that such permits generate about $1.3 million in revenue, plus another $1.8 million from tennis courts — which require a seasonal permit of $200 for adults.

Beach bums have flocked to Pier 6’s regulation-size courts since they opened in May, as well as to the park’s new gourmet concessions, lawns and lighted pathways.

Now they’ll have even more reason to show up, with free adult skills sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 4 to 7 pm and Sunday from 9 am to noon, and day camps for low-income children are on Tuesdays and Fridays from 10 am to 1 pm.

Volleyball buff Guillermo Mentado, 17, welcomed the new league matches — though he wished they wouldn’t start until next year.

“It’s a different atmosphere down here,” said Mentado, a Fort Hamilton resident. “You have the waterfront and the lights at night. I want to at least enjoy it this summer before the leagues come in.”

Webster said that the courts will remain open predominantly for free play, adding that the partnership will ensure the fullest use of the park — especially with a source of cash ready to replace the sand or nets.

“At a time when there’s been pressure on the park’s maintenance budget,” Webster said, “we felt that two evenings of league play struck a really good balance between open access public programming and revenue generation.”

Volleyball courts at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6 (Atlantic Avenue at Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights) are open from 6 am to 10 pm. For info, visit www.brooklynbridgeparknyc.org.

Crown Heights resident Denzel Farrell is on the ball at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6, which will soon host volleyball tournaments and skills classes.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini