Young athletes coping with higher costs

Many Peninsula youth sports players will soon be forced to spend more time in the stands than on the field due to skyrocketing high-school facility fees.

The San Mateo Union High School District recently raised rates for sports leagues to use its facilities. Prices will soon be as much as $22.50 per hour; currently, San Mateo charges children $8 a day to use the district’s facilities.

City officials from Burlingame, San Mateo, San Bruno and Millbrae — four cities with schools in the district — said the cheaper city-operated fields are already overcrowded and will not have space to accommodate leagues that will be unable to afford to play at high schools.

“Our fields are already jam-packed, so I don’t know where we’d put anybody who didn’t want to use high school fields,” said George Musante, director of athletics for the city of San Mateo.

Millbrae, San Bruno and Burlingame park officials also said their fields are overbooked and said they will meet with local leagues to discuss how to squeeze in the expected rise in demand for field access. City officials, however, admitted there were no clear answers yet on how to do that.

“Everybody gets less playing time,” Burlingame Parks and Recreation Director Randy Schwartz said.

Burlingame, he said, may need to find space for more than 2,400 players who may not be able to afford to play at Burlingame High School. San Bruno will likely have to reduce playing time for leagues as well, said Danielle Brewer, recreation services manager for the city of San Bruno.

Millbrae AYSO Commissioner Mike Palu said he would need to find space for 600 players and was one of three coaches from different leagues who pleaded with the Millbrae City Council on Tuesday for help in finding a place to play.

Palu said his soccer league could have to reduce its services. His organization may not be able to afford to play at Mills High School but there is no available space at any other field in Millbrae, he said.

“We’re all concerned,” said Michael Shanus, whose son plays in the Burlingame Youth Baseball Association. “I know that the school district is in a precarious financial situation but by the same token so are many of the [sports leagues].”

Burlingame officials said they hope to add more than 2,000 hours of playtime by installing synthetic turf at Bayside Park. Millbrae officials said they are optimistic that the city’s three unplayable fields can be fixed through a pending agreement with its school district.

High School District Chief Business Official Liz McManus will meet to negotiate rates with each league and said the fee hikes were to offset state budget cuts.

mrosenberg@examiner.com

Sports fields by the numbers

8: San Mateo Union High School District sites

4: Cities with schools in the district

March 13: Date increased field rates were approved

July 1: Date increased field rates will take effect

League options

$17.50-$22.50 per hour: Likely rate to use high school fields

$4 or $8 per day: Fee to play on San Mateo fields

$10 or $20 per year: Fee to play on Burlingame fields

$8 per league: Fee to play on Millbrae fields

$6.50 per league: Fee to play on San Bruno fields

Sources: SMUHSD, cities

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