Simplot Millennium Park played host to last summer’s Western Canadian Peewee AAA Baseball Championship.
Westman's premier youth baseball facility could die a slow and painful death if it does not see some tax relief from the City of Brandon, the Brandon Minor Baseball Association has warned.
Simplot Millennium Park, located along the Eastern Bypass just past the intersection of Richmond Avenue East, began operated solely under the auspices of the Brandon Minor Baseball League late last year after the Simplot Millennium Park Inc.'s board of directors all retired at the same time.
Though the property on which the park sits remains under the ownership of Koch International (which bought out Simplot Canada's Brandon plant in the summer of 2006), the board transition now means that all operational and financial responsibilities relating to the park fall on the shoulders of what is essentially a group of eight volunteers.
Unfortunately, as that association's president and now chair of the park's board of directors, Faron Asham, tells the Sun, the new board has found itself behind on its 2010 taxes and with no money in the bank.
"The retirement of the board came at a time when there were no longer any funds available from their board to pay the tax liability," Asham said. "As such, this burden now falls to the minor baseball association."
The board is currently in arrears on its 2010 tax bill and has asked the city to take care of the $6,000 in municipal taxes it owes.
Moving forward, it would also like to see the city either provide it with a permanent tax exemption or partial relief through annual grant funding.
Without such relief, Asham fears a gradual process of dropping membership and increasing fees would eventually destroy the park's viability.
"What will happen (is) it would be a slow, painful death," he told councillors earlier this week. "Our membership fees would rise, our numbers would go down and we would rise exponentially so that 30 players would be paying $1,000 each just so that we could open the gates. So that, realistically, is not going to happen.
"We don't want to raise our fees. We really have a true mandate to any child that wants to play ... and we certainly would still like to do that."
Simplot Millennium Park was constructed in 2000, with "99 per cent private enterprise funds," Asham said.
Since then, the association has funded nearly $100,000 in park improvements on its own and covers the $60,000 to $70,000 in annual operating expenses through a combination of membership fees, revenue from tournament rentals and other fundraising initiatives.
The association sees anywhere between 350 and 400 youth players registering to play on the park's eight diamonds each year and has also set a precedent of hosting at least one provincial championship each year.
That self-sustainability would not cease if the city came on board with tax relief, Asham promised.
"We're not asking for a handout or anything. We're just asking for a little assistance and relief in providing a first-class facility, with little or no maintenance and services requested of the city," he said.
City administration is currently researching the association's request, including similar tax agreements undertaken by any other municipal jurisdictions, with the intent to bring a recommendation back to council.
But as Brandon's only privately held ball diamond, acting city manager Ted Snure admits that Simplot Millennium Park's tax situation is unusual.
"We'll be looking at our ability to proceed with what their suggesting," Snure said. "Can we actually exempt them from tax? If we can't, then what other options are there available that the city could potentially direct them toward?"
No date has been specified for the administrative report to come back to city council.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 3, 2011 A1