MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Changes to public athletic fields in Morehead City are causing issues for local recreational teams.

Parents and coaches even created a petition and spoke out at the recent city council meeting. Starting in January, Morehead City began enforcing its charge of $40 per hour per field for residents and $60 per hour per field for non-residents to reserve the fields. Seashore Soccer League’s director said with over 540 recreational players with multiple practices and games scheduled,

“That would come out to over $8,000 that we’d have to pay for one season. And we have two major seasons, that’s $16,000 a year that, for us as a nonprofit, there’s just no way that we could cover that,” said Dennis Felipe, director of operations for Seashore Soccer League.

He added they would have to raise their registration fees by at least an extra $15 per player to cover it. Felipe said they’ve been around for 45 years, and have never been charged in the past.

“It’s almost like being double taxed because taxpayers are already paying for the maintenance and everything else that goes into this,” Felipe said. “But for that field schedule is pretty much just making sure that we reserve the field and nobody else can reserve it during that same time period.”

Due to parents and coaches being upset, the city voted to put the charges on hold until July.

“It just seemed like it’s just a Band-Aid for it now with no long-term solution,” said Felipe.

9 On Your Side reached out to the city about why they started asking for payments to reserve the fields. In a statement from City Manager Chris Turner, a former parks and recreation department head entered an illegal verbal agreement with Seashore Soccer and others to reserve the fields without payments. He added that other organizations wished to equally reserve the same space and were unable to do so and left complaints with the city. 

“We want to make sure all these sports are treated fair and the same,” said Felipe.

Felipe also said Seashore Soccer was never aware the previous employee was required to ask for payments to reserve the fields and hopes they can come to a resolution. 

The soccer league said they’ve been meeting with the city about removing the reservation charges rule, which will hopefully be discussed in the upcoming April city council meeting.