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Published: Monday, 4/26/2004

Toledo tries to score cash with beach volleyball

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mike Snyder used to run the riverfront volleyball courts. Mike Snyder used to run the riverfront volleyball courts.
ALLAN DETRICH Enlarge

By this date any other year, Mike Snyder would have been jockeying a backhoe, leveling dunes, and breaking up the crusted surface of the volleyball courts after a winter of inactivity at The Beach.

This spring, he's standing on the sidelines, after the city ended its contract with International Park of Greater Toledo, Inc. - and Mr. Snyder's contract with the park corporation - to run the volleyball courts.

A new manager is being brought in to tame the sands and schedule the volleyball teams - the city of Toledo's Parks, Forestry, and Recreation department.

Department Director Kattie Bond expressed confidence that the city can manage the volleyball complex and earn some extra money for the city.

The city ended its lease with International Park of Greater Toledo after the nonprofit corporation, which also ran last year's Tall Ships event, refused a city demand for 10 percent of its gross revenues from the three functions it ran, The Beach, the International Festival of Lights, and the museum ship S.S. Willis B. Boyer.

"We tried to negotiate the lease with IPGT, Inc., and were not able to come to terms. We look at this as we want to continue to provide a recreational activity," Ms. Bond said.

The city has taken over the Boyer but is contracting with the same director, Ed Goyette, who managed it under the parks corporation.

Mr. Snyder was told that, as a city employee, he is prohibited by the city charter from contracting directly with the city. Mr. Snyder said he believes a legal arrangement could have been worked out, but he was rebuffed. A 29-year city employee, Mr. Snyder works at the wastewater treatment plant.

"There were 22 teams when I took over about five years ago that played in the summer. I went to three sessions with more than 100 teams for the entire summer," Mr. Snyder said.

He says his first league play would have started this week.

As of Friday afternoon, the fenced-in facility on the windy Maumee River appeared unchanged since last fall. Drifted sand covered some of the equipment. Picnic tables remained stacked neatly, and weeds pierced the sand.

Built for $250,000 with six courts, The Beach opened in mid-summer 1995, earning only $227 that year. Complaints that first year included no food or liquor service, no lights for night play, and no fence to keep balls out of the Maumee River.

By 1998, the facility was earning $6,200 a summer. Mr. Snyder, a former member of the nonprofit board that ran The Beach, took over operations in 1999 after incorporating his own company, he said.

Today, the park has a tall net surrounding it and lights. Mr. Snyder said he set up a bare-bones concession stand and tried in vain to persuade the city to provide a liquor license.

Mr. Snyder said he operated leagues at least three nights a week, but still never grossed more than $10,000. The operator who preceded Mr. Snyder ran league competitions Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights from May through September to take in $6,200 for the whole summer.

Ms. Bond said the city plans to schedule leagues one night a week, maybe more if the demand exists. She said the facility will be run by a seasonal manager.

Staff hired to run The Beach during league play and when rented out will be paid for by fees for those activities. When not rented, it will be open from dawn to dusk for public use, like other city parks. Ms. Bond said rentals are tentatively scheduled to start the end of May, and league play will also start the end of May or early June.

The city is taking on the operation at a time when Mayor Jack Ford is seeking $3 million in savings or new revenue in this year's budget. Already this year, the mayor has eliminated the positions of commissioner of recreation and supervisor of athletics.

City Councilman Bob McCloskey said the changeover was an administration call.

"Kattie Bond feels they will keep it open all the time. They think they can make some income off of it," Mr. McCloskey said. "The International Park board says it was a losing proposition for them."

Tom Cousino, owner of Cousino's Navy Bistro, next door in The Docks, said he's glad the park will be left open for public use, which might encourage more people to tie up their boats at the city's dock facilities.

"You don't want to sit in your boat all day," he said. "What I have seen is the space locked up and locked off so people just couldn't come in and play - they had to make reservations. Sometimes you don't plan that far ahead. It could be more user-friendly."

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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