Here’s a quiz: Who gets charged more to rent per hour, a family using a lane of candlepin bowling at Needham Bowlaway or a non-Newton for-profit soccer camp using a full-sized soccer field owned by the City of Newton? Answer: A lane of candlepin bowling is $30 per hour. A full-sized soccer field goes for $25 per hour.

Look, I don’t begrudge a soccer camp charging several dozen players $210 each for 3.5 hours per day, or $275 each for 5 hours per day, for four days. That’s what we had on Weeks Field last week.  If that’s what parents are willing to pay, so be it.

But I am offended that non-Newton for-profit organizations like these can get access to grass fields in Newton at such a low rate. (Non-Newton nonprofits are charged $20 per hour.)

Everyone acknowledges that Newton’s playing fields have been subject to deterioration because of a lack of funding from the city. When this is brought up to the city administration, they claim they are doing the best they can, given other financial priorities. Some of us have contributed personal funds to help with this problem. Newton Girls Soccer and Newton Youth Soccer have ponied up $70,000 in 2020 to help with field maintenance and upgrades. My own group of adult players has contributed over $4000 this year, voluntarily, in addition to the permit fee we pay.

What is keeping the fees so low for non-Newton businesses? “It’s always been that way,” seems to be the answer.

Just because it’s always been that way doesn’t mean it should continue being done that way. We are leaving thousands of dollars in the coffers of businesses that do not contribute to the upkeep of the fields they use to make a profit. Charging them a fair price is more than reasonable given our circumstances–and theirs. I don’t know if this change requires a vote of the City Council or whether the Mayor has the discretion to do it alone, but there is no reason to delay.

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