Youth basketball in St. Paul sees nearly 40 percent registration increase, city to waive fees for kids 9 to 18

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			Youth basketball in St. Paul sees nearly 40 percent registration increase, city to waive fees for kids 9 to 18
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Kids in St. Paul have shown they want to play basketball, and the city has created an easier path for them to take the court.

With federal funding from the America Rescue Plan Act, the city’s parks and recreation department has waived fees for kids ages 9 to 18 for basketball and other sports for the next three years.

The city has seen a 38 percent increase in registrations from 2021 to 2022. While the more than 1,250 signups represent a return to pre-pandemic levels, it shows the barrier registration feels ranging from $25 to $40 presented to some families.

“I’m super proud of this,” St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter Tweeted on Friday. “It’s one of the coolest things we’ve done. And not just basketball – we used #AmericanRescuePlan funds to ditch fees for all sports & @SaintPaulParks is currently serving 1000+ more youth than this time last year.”

Andy Rodriguez, the director of St. Paul parks and recreation, said that dollar amount might sound modest.

“But honestly, for a family that might be a tank of gas or some other (essential item) versus playing basketball for the season,” he said. “With those fees going away, families don’t have to make that decision anymore.”

St. Paul will spend $1.5 million of ARPA funds on its rec centers. That will include waiving fees for all sports offered, including baseball, softball, volleyball and soccer. The federal funs will also be directed toward expanded rec center hours of operation and mobile rec programs such as climbing walls, game trucks and other programming, Rodriguez said.

“It’s a really big investment into our people and our communities, and it contributes to public safety,” Rodriguez said. “If you are in organized programs or are participating in organized activity with something positive, that’s what we want.”

But what St. Paul will do with youth sports registration fees once the federal money runs out in three years is yet to be seen.

“Three years is good runway to problem solve,” Rodriguez said. “I think when we get to the end of that we will have some good data to show what we can do to keep this moving.”

The city’s youth basketball season runs from late October to January with games between teams at different rec centers and tournaments that branch out of the city limits.

The city has 26 rec centers and Rodriguez estimates 20 have youth teams. Battle Creek leads the way with 11 teams, while Hayden Heights, McDonough and Dayton’s Bluff were centers that didn’t regularly field teams, but now have squads.

“It’s a really encouraging participation trend to see new teams at rec centers that don’t traditionally have them,” Rodriguez said. “I think that is the silver lining out of all this.”

Rodriguez said he anticipates registrations to continue to tick upward as the season approaches at the end of the month.

Registration for basketball can be found online at: www.stpaul.gov/departments/parks-and-recreation/athletics/youth-athletics/youth-basketball.

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