CLEARWATER — The same team, the same balls, the same bats. Just not the same costs for some of the players.
But local leaders say they're just evening the playing field.
The City Council on Thursday is expected to sign off on a plan that would double this year's recreation card costs for many nonresidents to play sports beginning Oct. 1.
The move is expected to raise $115,000 for Clearwater's coffers and keep residential costs down by spreading them over to those folks who don't live in the city.
"The difference is real simple because the residents pay property taxes and they have to pay them," said Kevin Dunbar, parks and recreation department director.
"The nonresident has no skin in the game … so this is equaling the playing field.
"We're not telling the nonresidents to not play. We're just saying you have to pay your fair share."
To play ball now, nonresidents pay $90 for an individual card, and whatever the specific sports league charges. An annual family card costs $225 for nonresidents.
"If we don't (raise the rates), what are our choices? It's better to have higher prices to support recreation programs than to eliminate them," council member Paul Gibson said.
When asked whether the increase could mean nonresidents would opt not to buy the passes, Gibson said: "With the high cost of fuel, my belief is that people will stay home and use recreation facilities to an even greater degree."
Residents also will see an increase in recreation card costs, but to a much lesser degree.
Individual recreation cards will increase from $5 per person to $7, and family cards will increase from $25 to $35. Additionally, those residents also will have to pay whatever the sports league charges.
That means, for example, it's possible that roughly 72 percent of the children on the Countryside Youth Soccer Association would pay drastically higher prices than the kids who live in the area.
However, other teams, like the Greenwood Panthers, would see no change. All 180 members of the football league live in the city.
"For residents, the minor increase is the cost of doing business," Dunbar said.
Rates will increase even without City Council approval — but just not as high — because the recreation department bases them on a formula tied to the city's budget.
So on Thursday, if the council doesn't approve the proposed rates, then nonresident individual costs will be $120 and nonresidential family costs will be $300.
Now almost 11,700 residents pay close to $64,800 in passes. Nonresidents account for almost 1,200 to the tune of almost $79,000.