St. Paul Parks Department Drops Youth Sports Fees, Participation Skyrockets

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A significant drop in the City of St. Paul's youth sports programs has caused participation to skyrocket. 

According to Bring Me the News, federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act has allowed for St. Paul Parks and Recreation to waive all sports fees for kids ages 9-18 for the next three years starting this winter. 

"We used #AmericanRescuePlan dollars to waive fees for youth sports programs. Now, registration for soccer and basketball is up nearly 40 percent. It's an example of how a relatively minor change can have an enormous impact on our families," mayor Melvin Carter posted to Twitter. 

Parks and rec director Andy Rodriguez told Bring Me the News that the board has seen over 1,300 kids register for basketball as of Wednesday. That's a 40 percent increase since the removal of the fees. 

"It has brought us back to that pre-pandemic level of getting people back into our programs," Rodriguez said, adding that prior fees ranged from $25 to $40. 

Rodriguez said the three-year window will allow his department to look into ways to continue offering the programs for free. 

"We have a lot of runway to plan and forecast for future budgets so we can hopefully keep this sustainable and prevent from having to reimplement a fee structure," he said.

The city will spend about $1.5 million of the federal funds on its recreation centers. The funds will also be spent on equipment costs. 

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