PRINCETON: Town looking at charging groups for use of playing fields

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
The town will consider requiring youth sports teams and other groups wanting to play on municipally owned playing fields in Princeton to start paying a seasonal rental fee, possibly by next spring.
Policymakers are poised to vote later this month on creating a tiered fee structure, in a community where demand for playing space is high and supply is limited. Fees will be based, in part, on the percentage of participants who come from Princeton.
At the high end, a group that uses a field for an average of more than five hours per week, per season, would have to pay $400 if 55 percent to 75 percent of its participants come from town. The fee drops to $250 for groups with 75 percent or more locals participating, while groups that use fields for less than five hours on average per week would have to pay $125.
Programs run by the municipal Recreation Department and the public school district are exempt.
Princeton Councilwoman Jo S. Butler said Tuesday that the municipal Recreation Commission is going to vote, at its meeting Nov.17, on the rental fees. She said the idea is to charge a “nominal amount” to help prioritize field use and cover some of the costs the town incurs to maintain its fields.
Ms. Butler said she suspects the town would require teams to provide rosters and addresses of players that staff could then cross-check to verify where they reside.
She said there is high demand for playing space in town, with fields getting a lot of wear and tear. Princeton does not have the same number of fields that other communities do, so sports teams find themselves competing for space.
Sara Doran, head of coaching and curriculum with Princeton Girls Lacrosse, or PGLAX, said Tuesday that her organization contacts the Recreation Department well in advance to reserve field space for the entire season.
In terms of what neighboring towns do, Montgomery has a $10 fee for residents wanting to use a field, with the cost giving them access for the whole day. Out-of-town users have to pay $20.
In the Princeton rental fee policy, the spring season is defined as from late March to mid-June, the summer season from mid-June to mid-August and the fall from late August to mid-November. 