Thursday, May 12, 2011

Changes to the Toledo 3 Wall Courts from the Toledo Handball Club

Dear Handballers,

Outdoor handball season is finally here! With the warm weather predicted this week it is time to pull the outdoor shoes out of the bottom of your handball bag and pack the cooler with beer for another great summer of 3 wall handball.

Unfortunately, as most of you know, it is not exactly business as usual at the Lucas County Rec center. As is the case with so many government operated assets these days, the County, after running significant financial deficits over the last decade, has pulled out of the management of the Rec Center and has leased the property to a private property management enterprise called Line Drive Sportz. While a necessary move for the county, it is a tremendous loss for those of us who have enjoyed using the facility at no cost and had its maintenance paid for with tax dollars. With the arrival of Line Drive has come a new situation.

This property is now a privately operated “club” rather than a county park and unfortunately in the way of all private property the managers are demanding a fee based use system. Because nobody wants to be locked out of the grounds when we show up for a game, or disappoint the USHA who counts on our support to secure the facility’s use for its annual National Tournament, the Toledo Handball club has been meeting with Line Drive since last summer to try to establish a contract for unlimited handball use. In much the same way that Roy Hobbs Baseball, Toledo Titans Football, National Midget Car Racing, Lucas County Little League etc. have arranged, Line Drive requires a yearly rental fee for the use of its facility. We have negotiated that fee as diligently as possible and agreed to pay $4,000 for an unlimited yearly contract. Incidentally that is a 15% reduction from last year’s total paid.

While preliminary discussions included a daily admittance fee at a secured gate, we think that having unlimited use is the way to go. This brings up some obvious questions so here are some simple answers:

Q: What do we get for our $4,000?

A: Unlimited use of the concrete courts, that's it. Line Drive will mow the grass, empty the trash, provide 3-4 portable toilets, pay the insurance and provide electricity, nothing else. Understandably, these services are paltry, but Line Drive’s response is “You are not paying for our service, you are paying to use our facility.”

Q: Will we have to provide maintenance to the courts?

A: Yes, at whatever level of condition we wish to enjoy the use. Line Drive will perform any service on the courts that we request but they will charge us for their work.

Q: What about the graffiti currently on the walls?

A: THC can contract to have it removed or repainted at its expense, or we could just play on the courts without cleaning them at no additional cost, or we can contract Line Drive to paint but we will be charged for the work.

Q: Will we be charged to park?

A: No, but the new managers require that all cars must use the parking lot. No cars are allowed on the grass near the courts and no driving is allowed on the walking paths. Also no parking will be permitted on the street leading into the Rec Center off of Michigan. Parking will only be allowed in the parking lot. At this point they also claim that the Rib-Off and the State Fair exclusively rent this lot during their events and so we will have to pay these events for parking at these times or park in the local neighborhoods to avoid the fee. We are still attempting to negotiate this point.

Q: Will this affect the National Tournament?

A: Hopefully not in any noticeable way. Line Drive has committed the same availability that we have had in the past, although as a private company with exclusive control of the assets, they are not obligated to provide picnic tables, trash cans or even spectator stands especially if they have other users for these items who are willing to pay for them. They have committed to continue to allow participants to park and camp on the grounds as they have done in the past at no additional charge.

Q: What about all the other users of this facility i.e. raquetballers, walkers, basketball players, tennis etc?

A: Line Drive claims that they reserve the right to charge for their use in the future and may secure the grounds to do so, but they will leave the walking path and basketball courts free for use at this time. Like us, racquetball, and tennis players are also being charged for their use. As most of us know, the tennis courts are padlocked and only those who participate in a paid league or those who pay for an individual hourly use rate will be given the lock code. They claim that they will police the use of all of these facilities in part through a new concession/ admittance stand that will installed in the old storage shed at the entrance of the area which is to be completed this spring.

Q: This Stinks! We’ve put 35 years worth of energy, money and care into this facility, has anyone complained to the county?

A: You better believe it was our first call, but lets face it, in today's economic climate we shouldn't be surprised that in a nice politician’s voice they have repeatedly told us, “Sorry, Lucas County has no more funds for supporting this park, we have given your community’s property away to save our operating budget costs and Line Drive is now the controlling party, at least for the next 4 years.” At the end of their contract, the county could choose not to renew the deal with Line Drive but, be realistic, Lucas County is happy to be rid of this property which they have repeatedly told us operated at a $100,000+ annual deficit. This property is going to be privately managed for the foreseeable future.

Q: How do I pay my fair share so I can keep playing handball all summer long?

A: On behalf of all who plan to continue to play, Toledo Handball Club has agreed to advance your required use fee because Line Dive demands payment in advance of the season. At this time we are requesting that every player who intends to use the courts this season repay THC for its prepayment on your behalf. The requested amount is $100 per person per year. While expensive, it is probably way less than you have paid all winter to play indoors. We realize that this is an increase from last year’s fee of $50 but frankly we came up very short last year mostly because not every user actually paid the requested fee last year and nobody wants to be the payment enforcement police. This year if everybody helps spread the word and encourage others to be honest and fair and everybody pays their share we should have sufficient funds to offset THC’s commitment. Whether you plan to play just occasionally on the weekends or 5 times a week the requested amount is the same. This is not a donation. We all know there are plenty or requests already. This is your court time/ use fee which will be paid to the facility managers. Any additional money will also be used to make repairs as needed so the courts remain the finest in the area.

Q: I live out of town and only use the courts on occasional visits. $100 seems pretty steep. Is there an out of town rate?

A: Yes. We all want to encourage the great handball talent that visits Toledo and improves the level of competition. Some of the best matches of the year are made possible by the players from, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Chicago etc. As a result, if you live outside of a 50 mile radius from the Lucas Count Rec Center we request that you pay a reduced fee of only $50 for the season for your court time. Because local players get more use of the courts, the local player’s contributions will offset this reduction to encourage you to still visit us. Additionally, for players who are just passing through and plan to play no more than 3 times this year we invite you to play at no charge as a guest of the Toledo Handball Club. Furthermore to encourage the growth of our sport, all juniors will be invited to play as our guest also free of charge.

There aren't too many ways to spin this situation to make it seem like a good thing. It’s crummy to have to pay for something we have enjoyed for free for so many years and especially for something that we have invested in many times over but it is a modern reality.

If you don't want to pay to play, we understand and you will be missed. We need all the players we can get to make our game fun. If you do plan to play, and the by the way, the weather forecast calls for a much awaited glorious stretch and warm playable handball temperatures this week; please make your check out to Toledo Handball Club c/o George Miller and send it to immediately to 316 N. Fulton St., Swanton OH 43058 or hand it to Shain Buerk, Rick Stevens, Phil Kirk or George Miller as soon as possible. Obviously THC does not have the financial resources to allow it to front your fees for very long. We don't want to write any rubber checks.

We hate being Line Drive Sportz’s collectors. Please do not put THC in the uncomfortable position of chasing you down to pay your bill. Please forward this email to anyone who you think is intending to play this season to save them and us the uncomfortable embarrassment of demanding payment when they show up to play. Lastly, if you want more information feel free to contact Shain Buerk or George Miller. Don’t shoot the messenger. We do not enjoy being the negotiators on all of our behalves. It has been a year long pain in the neck but we realize that if we want to play somebody had to do it. If you would like to take over that roll, please consider yourself nominated. We welcome your help. We will happily put you in touch with Al Seegur and Line Drive Sportz or even Lucas County if you want to pursue that angle. Until then, the situation is as described above.

Cant wait to see you on the courts this summer.

Shain Buerk
George Miller

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