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Players crying foul
$2 jump in BLD entry fee creates backlash
Players use the BLD batting cages on Wednesday - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

One irate soccer player has taken his issue with Big League Dreams’ proposed admission fee increase to the people.
And it’s gaining some traction.
Earlier this week Gabe Padilla launched a petition seeking to keep the fee that is charged to league soccer and softball  players as well as spectators 13 and older  at $3 instead of the $5 that will go into effect early next month. Those under 12 will still have free access. The $2 fee hike initially will only be for Friday, Saturday, and Saturday nights. Those paying the entry fee will still receive a $1 token good at either of the two BLD restaurants.
That brings the charges in line with tournament admissions.
The entry fees are in addition to league fees that are paid for the adult leagues. They are typically $300 a team plus $30 a player
As of Wednesday at 6 p.m. nearly 400 people had signed the petition while more than 50 people had shared it on social networking site Facebook. That gives his grassroots movement some push as people commented on the coming change and whether they think that’s fair for longtime supporters of the city-owned sports complex that was built with $30 million in redevelopment agency funds. The city, however, is  not on the hook for maintenance and operational costs and receives roughly $400,00 annually in lease payments from BLD.
According to BLD General Manager Roy Featherolf, the fee increase is necessary to keep up with staffing costs that have increased 20 percent over the course of the last year. Much of that is attributed to minimum wage going from $9 an hour to $10 an hour on Jan.1 of this year. In BLD’s first year of operation a decade ago minimum wage was $6.75 while the entry fee was $2. The current minimum wage will increase by 50 percent by 2022.
Some of the things that Padilla is asking for in his petition – like seeing the money go to into upkeep – are already scheduled.
“Right now we’re planning on replacing all of the stadium seats which are on order, and we’re looking into replacing the brown portions of the turf on each of the infields as well as the field turf inside of the soccer complex,” Fetherolf said. “We’re hoping to do that maybe in December or January of next year, but wasn’t prepared to release that information at the time that they posted the notice of an increase.
“We didn’t want to promise something because people always want to see something before they actually make a decision, and we have a lot of upgrades that we’re planning on implementing,” he said. “The seats will be probably be here next and we’ll get working on the infields shortly after that. And right now we have a team on standby that’s ready to replace all of the turf that we need including in the fieldhouse – we just need to map it out.”
But Padilla, who was been playing soccer at the park since it first opened, wants to see the price kept where it is as well as the upgrades that he feels have been lacking.
“Some of us play on multiple teams each season and there are as many as five seasons in a single year, and it’s possible with the current rates that you’re paying $110 per team that you play on. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that I’ve paid more than $2,000 in a year to play out there,” Padilla said. “And now they’re want to raise the cost of admission up to $5 to offset staffing costs and I just don’t that’s fair to people who have been loyal since the beginning.
“We want a fun local place to play and there are other options around here for that. That’s why I started the petition – I wanted to get the point across that some of us don’t like the idea of paying that much just to come down and play soccer when we aren’t seeing where our money goes.”
Padilla said that at certain times there have entire chunks of turf missing in front of the goalie box, and that strips are laid down to renovate the turf instead of a one-time overhaul that would create symmetry on the playing surface.
When he first started playing out there, the fieldhouse facility would close down for a week or two in December while they rehabbed the playing surface, but he said that hasn’t happened in the last several years.
According to Fetherolf, the increased fee will only go into effect on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, and he didn’t rule out the possibility that they’d have to revisit that in the next several years as California’s minimum wage creeps up from $10 to $15.