Priced out

    Campus Recreation will now enforce an hourly fee for groups desiring to rent the Community Recreation Field, a move that has angered some regular users who say that Portland State has a commitment to keep the field open to the community.

    The university had previously established a block of time in the afternoon for anyone to use the field for free, whether they desired to play an organized game or just kick a soccer ball around. To offset rising costs, the midday recreation time has been cancelled and organized groups wishing to use the field must now pay a $90 hourly rental fee, reduced from the previous fee of $115 an hour.

    The field will remain free for all non-organized use by students, student groups or community members.

    James Yates, organizer of the Ultimate Frisbee players, a group that has used the field regularly, said that his group would not pay the fee. They will play at the YMCA, he said, even though the field is almost unusable in the winter months because of the rain’s effects on the grass. Yates was first informed by e-mail that his Frisbee group would not be allowed to use the field without paying in late August.

    Arthur Kohn, an adjunct instructor in the philosophy department and regular member of the Frisbee group for 10 years, said that the group has ceased meeting regularly since mid-August. He said that they have not been able to use the YMCA field on occasion because Portland State reserves that field occasionally as well.

    He said that he has faith in Portland State that the situation will work out.

    "I know that PSU has a commitment to the community," Kohn said. "I’m confident that the administration will not allow varsity athletics to get in the way of our community."

    Yates speculates that the Frisbee group was asked to begin paying because of arguments between the football team and the Frisbee group regarding use of the field.

    Randy Miller, the director of physical education at PSU and current scheduler for the community field, said that the university is attempting to balance what he calls its "fiscal responsibilities" with the needs of the community. He said that the midday recreation time is no longer a priority for the physical education department.

    Miller said that they are flexible regarding usage of the field, but for less organized groups and individuals. He said that if someone wants to exercise or recreationally play a game on the field, and no one has it reserved, they will not be asked to pay or leave. The problem, he said, is because some groups, such as the Frisbee group, have become so organized that they were beginning to expect certain times for themselves and push other members off.

    "None of us want to preclude anyone from physical activity and recreation," Miller said. "If it’s not scheduled we won’t kick people off."

    Miller calls it a misconception that community members will not be allowed to use the field unscheduled.

    The Community Field, located directly in front of the Peter Stott Center, was constructed in 1998, replacing the formally grassy field with artificial turf. Time was set aside for a few hours in the afternoon for free use by community members as long as they follow set criteria for acceptable use.

    Miller said that the new pay model has not yet begun to show positive results. The estimated cost for maintaining the Community Field, according to Miller, is $120,000 a year. He said enforcing the rental fee will help to offset the cost of maintenance, as well as construction of new lights on the field and replacement of the turf, both of which are scheduled for December. The income created from rental fees is a necessity and the field is in desperately in need of repair, he said. The turf is breaking down to the point that it is coming off on people’s shoes.

    Miller said that he is available for discussion to any group that feels pushed aside. "I encourage them to come talk to us," he said. "None of us want to put up a barrier."