Non-compete clause harms the little guys

Published 8:02 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2019

When the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the city’s contract with Sports Force for the sports complex on Fisher Ferry Road that has apparently become an economic boon to the city, they signed what is known as a “non-compete” clause, designed to make it difficult for the city’s ball fields to host large tournaments.

The reasoning was simple — Sports Force Parks on the Mississippi was conceived as an economic engine for the city; a facility that would draw hundreds, no, thousands of out of town baseball and softball teams and families to our city to stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants, visit our stores and generate tax money. It would be self-defeating if it had to compete with the local fields for business.

To prevent that from happening, the city and Sports Force agreed city parks and recreation would charge $600 a day to use the fields at Halls Ferry Park and Bazinsky — a large enough fee to discourage any tournament from using the fields, especially when it would cost less to play at Sports Force Parks.

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But somewhere in all this, the little folks were forgotten. City recreation director Joe Graves said most of the 10-15 tournaments played at the park annually were benefit tournaments for people injured in car wrecks or sick with a disease like cancer. Having to pay $600 a day to rent a field for a weekend for a small tournament is counterproductive. And it doesn’t make sense.

Charging that rate for something like a 50-team tournament makes sense. Charging $600 a day for a small charity or church tournament is ridiculous.

Monday, South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour discussed the work the city has done to improve its public recreation facilities, citing the improvements at the parks and the tennis complex at Halls Ferry. He is correct.

And if people wish to use the facilities for a charity tournament, they should be allowed to do so, and be charged a small fee to help cover the costs of operation and maintenance.

These tournaments are no economic threat to the sports complex. When the non-compete fee comes up for discussion next year, let’s hope the powers that be put in some consideration and practice a little charity and look at setting a rate that will allow small fundraisers like a benefit tournament to play without breaking someone’s pocketbook.