Fee increases by the Town of Payson that took effect on Aug. 8 may force several softball tournaments in Payson to move out of town.
Among them are a series of three nonprofit tournaments run by Payson veteran Joshua Lyon.
Lyon started the Payson Summer Series four years ago to grow softball in Payson, support local veterans and raise awareness of the challenges veterans face.
Profits from his Payson Invitational, Beat the Heat and Home Runs For Vets tournaments, which attract at least 30 teams each, most from the Valley, go to Payson area veterans organizations. His nonprofit Home Runs for Vets organization donated $7,000 to local veterans last year alone.
That was an increase over the $4,500 they contributed the previous year because the Payson Town Council waived fees in 2020 because Home Runs for Vets is a nonprofit with proceeds donated back to local veterans.
But Payson’s new increase in fees don’t include a discount for nonprofits.
Lyon said the new increase in the cost to run a tournament in Payson means he’ll be forced to cancel his tournaments and hold one big one each year, likely in Flagstaff, which offers a discount to nonprofits.
Of course, that would mean the profits from the tournament will go to Flagstaff-area veterans instead of helping Payson vets.
“We’d donate it up there,” he said.
It’s not what he wants.
But he doesn’t see any other option.
Lyon said the increase in fees will significantly reduce the amount of money they’ll be able to donate and may even result in a loss.
He fears the dramatic cost increase means the Sept. 18-19 Home Runs for Vets tournament, may be the last he holds in Payson.
He hopes to take his case to the Payson Town Council.
“I had a talk with the mayor (Tom Morrissey) and (councilor) Scott Nossek, and apparently the town is no longer able to donate any services, so they’re increasing prices,” Lyon said. “For us, our price almost triples. So we can’t do it. We’re out.”
He said he’s talked to others running adult softball tournaments in Payson who also won’t return to Rim Country next year because of the increase in cost.
Lyon said they’ll go from paying an average of $130 per field per day (they typically use four fields) to $225 per field per day. So, that’s an increase from $520 per day for field usage to $900 per day.
Plus, they’ll now have to pay $92 per event per unit for trash service. Since there are three trash bins, he’s unsure if that means $92 or $276 ($92 for each of the three bins).
But it really doesn’t matter because they can’t afford one $92 charge on top of the increase in field rental.
And then there’s the $50 fee for each portable toilet they’ll require. They’ll need four or five. Vandals damaged the park’s restroom(s) and they’ve been closed with portable toilets brought in until they can make the repairs.
“They’re nickel-and-diming us to death,” he said. “It’s like renting a hotel room and you have to wash your own sheets. No other town does that.”
Lyon said to remain in Payson, he’ll have to increase the $350 per team he has been charging teams to participate in his tournaments, which is hard to justify for use of what he calls “sub-par” facilities.
“Payson wants to compare their facilities to most of the (top facilities in the state) but they don’t offer the same amenities because most complexes have toilets and don’t charge extra for trash and have concession stands,” he said.
He said the new fees are close to fees charged at much nicer facilities with clover-pattern fields (four fields together with a crows nest and concession stand at the center charge, that make shifting to a different field much quicker and easier for players and spectators.
He said many locations across the state not only offer the convenience of field proximity, shaded seating, working restrooms and concession stands, but also feature pavement between fields.
“They also have shade, protective netting and everything is paved so you’re not dragging equipment through dirt,” Lyon said. “When it rains, now you’re dragging around muddy stuff.”
He said Payson is trying to charge similar rates to top-notch facilities like those in Flagstaff, Prescott Valley, Cottonwood and several Valley facilities.
Those cities and towns also feature more choices in quality restaurants and hotels than Payson does.
“They’re a Kia comparing themselves to a BMW,” he said. “The biggest draw for Payson has been that it’s cheap.”
But not anymore.
“They’re taking away from what we’re trying to give to local veterans,” Lyon said. “So it comes back to what are we doing this for? We’re doing it for the veterans.
“The increases are going to (reduce the number of) people coming to town. It’s not reasonable what they’re doing.”
Higher fees necessary
Payson Parks, Recreation & Tourism Department Director Courtney Spawn said the fee increase is necessary.
“Fees and charges are established to recover the reasonable cost of providing town services, and set price ranges for such services.
“To establish these fees and charges, it requires the town to identify actual costs, benchmarking, and the application of local context.
“In an effort to achieve this, an evaluation is done yearly to establish proposed fees for approval.
“The Town of Payson, in conjunction to fees and charges, has reevaluated its rental procedures for public events, in light of new clarity provided to governmental entities with respect to Article 9, § 7 of the Arizona Constitution, commonly referred to as the gift clause.
“Any changes to fees occur to comply with such state laws that govern municipal operations, and take into consideration of the previous factors of reasonable cost recovery, benchmarking comparisons, and local assessment.”
No nonprofit discount
“With this, the town does not have the ability to contribute public funds in the form of donations, in-kind contributions, fee waivers or subsidies to event hosts/organizations. This holds true regardless of where such profits or revenues from a private event may be contributed.
“Facility renters have the option to determine the scope of services they require from the Town to host their events on Town of Payson public space, while complying with usage rules.”
Spawn wrote that the town “appreciates all who are interested in hosting an event in our community and desire for those events to be successful.”
She said she hasn’t had an event organization express communication to date the inability to host their event in Payson due to these factors.
But they just went into effect, so it remains to be seen if other tournament organizers join Lyon in objecting to the increases and even move them to other communities as they go over their plan for their 2022 tournaments.
Lyon certainly is expressing his concern that the increase in fees will result in his having to cancel any future tournaments in Payson.
Spawn said that Payson has 24 field reservations for tournaments for the 2021 season, with most filling the 21 weekends from May through September.