WESTMINSTER — The Carroll County Men's Softball League helped lead the fight for the Carroll County Sports Complex.
Now it has decided to leave after playing there just three years.
Its governing board announced Friday night the league's intentionto play elsewhere this season.
The primary reason, officials said, is a planned $20 per hour lighting fee. League teams voted, 19-3, last week to leave the complex.
The new fee means teams would have to pay about $40 per per game instead of the $12 field preparation fee per doubleheader last year. Fees are split between the teams involved in each game.
John P. Little, the county recreation and parks director, said the league wasn't charged for lighting then because of its $12,000 contribution toward construction of the complex. But Little said taxpayers shouldn't be asked to subsidize future night games.
League officials said the fee increase of several hundred dollarsper team each year would be devastating.
"A lot of sponsors won'tbe able to support teams at the complex," said governing board secretary Frank Novotny, adding that teams without sponsors would be especially hard hit.
The league is arranging for alternate fields, but many can be used only on weekends, when better teams play in tournaments.
Several teams may leave the league if it switched to a weekend schedule, said league president Brad Gist.
Men's League officials also are concerned about having to play all complex games at night because the Charles Carroll Recreation Council baseball and softball teams have use of all five diamonds Monday through Thursday evenings.
Men's League officials complain the rec program has gradually taken almost complete control of the evening hours over the years.
"The county betrayed us. If it weren't for the Men's League, the complex wouldn't be there," said former league official Rick Will bitterly.
Vernon Smith, coordinator of the Charles Carroll youth baseball and softball programs, said the county should return to last year's arrangement, giving the Men's League two diamonds on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and letting both groups use the complex on Fridays.
Hesaid his group didn't ask for the diamonds four nights per week, calling the decision "asinine."
Smith said the rec council understands a return to last year's arrangement would require its ever-expanding program to play some games at Charles Carroll Elementary and a nearby Lions' Club field.
Little said field preparation must be done Fridays because the budget won't permit overtime pay to do it Saturdaymornings. But Men's League and Charles Carroll representatives said it could be done then, with costs added to weekend tournament fees.
"I wish we could sit down to see if we can resolve this issue," said Little.
Gist, though, said the resolution must come within two weeks because teams must soon enter other leagues if they wish to leave the complex.
Walt Amass, who manages league entry R. K. Warner, summed up the feelings of many at Friday's meeting when he said, "This is like a business. This is really taking the fun out of it."