Youth sports get a break on the cost of keeping field lights on

Youth sports get a break on the cost of keeping field lights on
Little League rules require well-lit fields for evening games and practices. Oceanside’s hourly rate for field lights is higher than neighboring cities. Photo by Promise Yee

OCEANSIDE — Little League coaches and parents asked City Council to help with the cost of field lighting to keep sports fees reasonable for families.

Lighting is a mandatory part of the game. League rules require specific illumination levels to ensure safe play during evening games and practices.

Mike McNeill, Oceanside National Little League president, said the league is doing everything it can to raise the $60,000 needed to pay for field lights this season.

“We’ve revised our snack bar, and done fundraising for $7,000,” McNeill said. “We’re doing our part, but it’s still not enough.”

Presidents of Oceanside Valley Little League and Oceanside American Little League shared the same concerns.

Leagues are scheduling games earlier, and holding fundraisers to cover the big-ticket item. Still the cost is a stretch for leagues that do not want to raise the registration price for players, which includes some players who are on financial scholarships.

Everyone agrees the benefits league sports provide youth are huge.

“It’s about building sportsmanship and leadership,” McNeill said. “It’s a place to go, to be involved in a team, in something bigger than themselves.”

The city already subsidizes some of the lighting costs.

Youth teams only pay for electricity used. The city picks up costs for lighting service, which ensures lights are turned off and on, and maintenance of the lights.

Compared to neighboring cities Oceanside charges $26 per hour for field lights, San Marcos charges $21 per hour, Vista charges $17 per hour, and Carlsbad charges $10 per hour. These cities also subsidize the price of game lights for youth sports teams.

Oceanside City Council decided to extend a greater hand and reduce hourly lighting costs to $20 per hour during the City Council meeting on May 7. City Manager Steve Jepsen said the lower lighting cost would be retroactive for this quarter.

Little League presidents said the reduced lighting rates are a big help for cash-strapped leagues. Some are still concerned registration rates may need to increase next year.

City staff will also work with each of the leagues to help them reduce costs further. Some cost-saving recommendations for leagues are to consolidate its teams’ time on the field, and communicate directly with the lighting service company to ensure lights are turned off promptly after games.

Youth soccer, football and other field sports leagues will also benefit from the reduced field light rates.

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