- Associated Press - Saturday, April 26, 2014

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - Hutchinson city officials are trying to determine the future of Fun Valley, which is showing its age after attracting regional tournaments to its fields for several decades.

The city is spending thousands of dollars a year to subsidize a venue that is attracting fewer tournaments because of competition from newer facilities in other communities, City Manager John Deardoff said.

City leaders are trying to decide whether to spend thousands of dollars to improve the site, or maintain its fields only for local recreational leagues, The Hutchinson News reported (http://bit.ly/1fuaxcb ).

Fun Valley opened as a private venture in 1980, but the city bought it in 1983 when the owners went bankrupt. It has a seating capacity of about 5,000 spread around several fields. Softball teams at Hutchinson Community College and Hutchinson High School still use the fields for their games.

“Are we going to stay in the tournament business?” Deardoff asked at a recent city council study session to discuss the 2014 budget. “Since 2005 there’s been a substantial decline in activity from when I was here before. We get regional tournaments, and most of those teams don’t spend the night in town.”

Revenues generated by Fun Valley cover only about half the expenses, so the city spends between $350,000 and $400,000 a year on the venue, said Finance Director Frank Edwards. The money goes for field maintenance and salaries of the four employees who manage tournaments.

Even if another organization took responsibility for attracting and managing tournaments, Deardoff said the city would have to pay to maintain the fields. And he said plenty of fields are available for the city’s recreation leagues.

The needs include repaving the crumbling parking lot, replacing old wooden bleachers, and improving restrooms and concession stands.

“The point is, that list won’t bring in one more tournament,” councilman Bob Bush said.

Council member Jade Piros de Carvalho doesn’t think the city has the money for the upgrades because it is likely to agree to significant improvements to its Sports Arena and can’t afford to do both.

The council will continue to discuss Fun Valley’s future during budget meetings over the next few months.

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Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News, http://www.hutchnews.com

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