Allegheny County considers increasing park fees

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Say goodbye to free nights at county ballparks.

Allegheny County Council is considering charging youth groups to use county facilities, one of many firsts in a slew of park fees officials think could wrest $700,000 more a year in new revenue.

Also on the table: a 25 percent surcharge to all non-county residents, doubled fees for walk-a-thon reservations and a bump in the senior discount qualifying age at the golf courses from 55 to 60.

"We're trying to set a policy where there's no such thing as free," said councilman Nick Futules, D-Oakmont, who is chairman of council's parks committee.

Mr. Futules introduced the new rules at Tuesday night's council meeting. A last-minute addition to the agenda, they got little notice from council members.

They'll be examined by a council committee before coming up for a vote.

Mr. Futules said the new fee schedule reflects new conveniences at the county's parks -- and the need to stay current with pricing. Previous prices didn't take into account Hartwood Acres' air conditioning, the amenities at J.C. Stone Field or competition from commercial banquet halls, he said.

All in all, he hopes to see $700,000 a year in new revenue, a gain that is still dwarfed by the park system's annual deficits.

"We're trying to be more revenue neutral," Mr. Futules said.

Under the new rules, county ballfields would cost $60 an hour. Renting out North Park's J.C. Stone Field stadium with the lights on will cost $250 an hour; use of the locker rooms, the press box and the concession stand will go for $100 each.

The new rules also restrict residents renting park facilities for events to a select list of caterers, to be pre-determined by the county. Caterers will also pay a 15 percent upcharge to serve at Hartwood Acres Mansion.

Sorry, kids -- pool pass prices are going up, with a family pass now costing $175. But the county is ditching previous weekend restrictions, making the passes valid seven days a week.

Mr. Futules suspects he might take some flak for hiking prices. But something had to be done to bring the parks in line and prepare for future costs, he said.

"I would imagine not everyone will be happy," he said.

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Andrew McGill: or 412-263-1497.


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