Tractors with rolls of sod help make the process faster.

Hillsborough County has proposed fee changes as a part of its efforts to improve the quality of fields used by dozens of leagues offering a variety of sports. The fees leagues pay to use Hillsborough sports complexes and fields will be set according to the income level of the neighborhoods surrounding the parks within a three-mile radius, with leagues serving low-income neighborhoods paying very low rates or no fees at all.

According to Rick Valdez, head of Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation, the fees will go towards resodding and the maintenance, including using chemicals, fertilization, aeration, top dressing and mowing, to maintain the Bermuda grass fields.

The county is also investing in new mowing equipment that will be dedicated to the Bermuda grass so that there isn’t any mixing with the grass from the common areas.

In 2019, the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners approved $17 million in additional funding to upgrade and maintain county fields. With this money, the county has already started resodding the fields that were in the worst shape.

About $10 million has been used to install new synthetic turf fields and $4 million for LED lighting. It is about one year into a two to three-year process of upgrading the 214 fields in Hillsborough County. About half of those fields are finished.

“The plan is to equalize the playing conditions at all Hillsborough County athletic facilities,” said Valdez.

Lower income level areas will receive the maintenance for free, with 100 percent of the cost subsidized by the county. The higher income areas will contribute more to the cost recovery, with 35 percent being the highest.

The leagues that use the parks will be charged only a percentage of the cost recovery based on the number of hours that they used the field. If it’s a smaller league, and they only used the field a couple hundred hours a year, they will only be charged for those hours, not for the full year.

There will be a three-year transition period for the leagues that owe anything in cost recovery. For the first year, they will owe nothing; the second year, they owe half; and by the third year, they will have to pay it off completely.

On March 5, residents were welcomed to attend a meeting at the All People’s Life Center to learn more about the changes.

“We want to do everything we can to encourage kids and adults to get out and play and be active,” said Valdez.