2028 Olympic Bid Promises Reduction in Youth Sports Fees

A photo from the 2012 Olympics, held in London, England. Photo: Alistair Ross / Flickr Creative Commons

LOS ANGELES—When city officials pitched to host the Olympics in 2024, they promised to use any surplus funds to “underwrite youth sports programs, lowering the costs for more than 100,000 Angelenos in underserved communities.”

Now that the city has agreed to step aside and host the games in 2028—paving the way for Paris to host the games in 2024—Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti does not have to wait for a hoped-for surplus to help children play city sports.

As part of Garcetti’s negotiations to delay Los Angeles hosting the games to 2028, the city will receive $160 million in advance funds from the International Olympic Committee [IOC] to “bring youth sports for free to every zip code,” as Garcetti said at a widely covered news conference early last summer.

The early receipt of such a large amount of funding from the IOC for a city in advance of hosting the games is unprecedented.

The deal should be finalized on or near September 13th in Lima, Peru by Olympic officials.

While details are still in the very early stages, according to Jeff Millman, chief communications officer with LA2028, the $160 million from the IOC will be used to offset registration fees for families for city sports programs.

“Reg[istration] fees for city of Los Angeles sports programs,” Millman said, “can really add up, when you are talking about various sports year-round and families that have multiple kids in those sports.”

According to Millman, the city will start receiving the funds in 2018 and hopes to implement the cost savings for families soon thereafter, continuing, for the 10 years leading up to the 2028 Games.

According to Millman, and others closely associated with the issue, the details and logistics of either reducing the city’s youth sports registration fees or providing them entirely for free, as Garcetti has been quoted, have yet to be finalized.

“[The program] will be developed in the months ahead,” said Millman. “Right now, we’d like to do it as soon as possible.”

After the 1984 Olympics, surplus funds from those games, in part, established LA84, a still relevant nonprofit dedicated to providing youth sports in the city of Los Angeles, a “legacy” from those games, officials say.

But LA28 and other city officials see the IOC’s $160 million, paid in advance, as a legacy in making, this time, preceding the games.

“What the mayor was thinking,” Millman said, “was instead of having more youth programs as a legacy after the games of 2028, we want the legacy to begin right away.”

According to media reports, the $160 million the city will receive in advance, is part of a $180 million payment the IOC will give to the city, paid in quarterly $9 million installments.

The other $20 million from the IOC will be to help fund the city’s Olympic Organizing Committee for its work for the additional years between 2024 and 2028.

Currently, the city has recreation centers with limited offerings for adults and mostly year-round activities for children aged 4 to 15, such as soccer, karate, basketball, swimming and baseball.

According to city officials and a Ledger analysis, the citywide average for each child, per sports program is about $50.

But according to city officials, children currently wanting to participate in the city’s programs can do so, regardless of whether their parents can pay or not.

“Families and kids are not turned away,” said Rose Watson, a spokesperson for the city’s Dept. of Recreation and Parks, which runs the city’s 184 recreational centers. “We offer [families] scholarships … I’ve never heard of a family being turned away.”

It’s unclear exactly how many scholarships the city provides each year, Watson said, as each of the city’s recreational centers keeps their own records and the numbers are not centralized.

But according to parents with children participating in such city offered sports programs, it’s not registration fees that keeps kids from participating in youth sports, but rather a lack of space.

According to many, city youth sports programs fill up fast and many kids are turned away due to current programs “bursting at the seams.”

Some locations, like Los Feliz, lack city venues to even offer such services, let alone to offer them at a reduced rate.

“There’s 46,000 people in 90027 which includes all of Los Feliz. How will the city reduce fees on youth programs we don’t actually have,” said Mark F. Mauceri, the sports and recreational interests chair of the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council.

According to a Ledger analysis, the IOC’s $160 million could assist low-income families for about eight years, given each child participates in a sport year-round, based on 100,000 children in the program—approximately 50% more than are currently participating.

However, when considering the estimated 20% poverty rate of an estimated 200,000 Angeleno children, aged from birth to 19 per the U.S. 2015 Census, the funding would conservatively last an estimated four years.

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