Harford Community College officials have reached an agreement with the operators of three Harford County adult baseball leagues who had protested a steep increase in rates to play on fields that are part of the Harford Sports Complex, President Dennis Golladay announced Tuesday.
"Once you have a problem identified and you sit down and talk about it, it's generally quite easy to find an accommodation, and if those conversations had started first instead of letters being sent and fires being lit we would have had the same positive outcomes," Golladay said during a meeting of the college's Board of Trustees.
The three adult leagues will see an increase in their per game rates, but it will be significantly lower than rates for other groups that want to rent the fields, which must pay the full rates for the spring and summer of 2014.
The operators of the three leagues – the Susquehanna League, the Over 30 League and the Over 40 League – will pay $150 a game for the turf field for two years, and $100 per game to use the field near Wawa during 2014, which will increase to $115 per game in 2015, Ken Krsolovic, athletic director for the college, said Wednesday.
The rates would then be renegotiated after two years.
"Our conversations have only been applicable to our leagues," Philip Hutson, of the Susquehanna League, said Wednesday.
The rates for users were published in November 2013; they came with a steep increase of $100 to $600 for the college's refurbished turf field and doubled from $100 to $200 to use the field near the Wawa convenience store at the northern edge of campus.
Users of the campus softball fields are being charged $90 per game.
"This puts the operation of the Harford Sports Complex more in line with how the college has operated with its other rentals," Krsolovic said.
He said the rates are subject to negotiation, depending on the size of a particular event, but the published rates serve as a "list price" for a "single-game user."
Hutson has been among league representatives working with college officials and even Harford County legislators in Annapolis. He said Wednesday the players in the adult leagues make up the majority of those using the baseball fields.
Hutson estimated 450 to 500 players are spread among the three leagues.
The Harford Sports Complex baseball fields are part of a recreational area of HCC's Bel Air campus that had been known for years as Thomas Run Park.
Hutson noted facilities such as Thomas Run Park, which was developed through the cooperation of community college, county and state officials about 20 years ago to have a place for adult recreation in Harford, are "heavily used by the community."
"We all need to remember that's really why that complex is there, and we need to do whatever we can so future generations are able to use that field for adult recreation," Hutson said.
Operators of the leagues have said they could not afford the rates and feared the rate increase could spell the loss of a popular spot for adult recreation.
Golladay has met privately with league officials several times since they brought their concerns to the public's attention in January.
He said after Tuesday's board meeting that college officials are waiting for the signed agreements to come back from the league officials.
He explained that, after two years, college and league officials would "work together to look at those rates as we go into the future."
Hutson said the Susquehanna League, which will begin its season in late April, plays a 28-game regular-season schedule, plus a playoff series.
"It adds up, and trying to save a little bit here and there kind of makes it work," he said of the increased fees.
Hutson said league officials are "hopeful that we are able to work with the college to find a long-term deal."