Shortly after taking over, president of the Nicoya sports committee Ernesto Baltodano received a notice: Costa Rica’s Social Security Institute (CCSS) would be closing the sports complex in Nicoya over a debt of ¢2.8 million ($4,6)
“We went to the CCSS and we made an arrangement, because there was one previously, to pay roughly ¢90.000 per month ($120) through 2021,” Baltodano said.
As dramatic as it seems, this isn’t a new or rare situation for the Nicoya Sports and Recreation Cantonal Committee (CCDRN). For at least three years, the organization’s finances haven’t been solid enough to cover expenses. For example, in 2017 they spent ¢11 million ($18,333.00) more than they made and ¢8 million ($13,333.00) more in 2016.
Even though 2019 just started, Baltodano and the other members of the CCDRN are suffering the same lack of resources, late payments to trainers and debts of as much as ¢6 million ($10,000). In order to cover what they owe, the committee requested advances from city hall. At the close of this edition, they still owed half of December bonuses.
Members of the CCDRN board of directors, who still work ad honorem, and members of the Nicoya City Council claim that the outgoing committee should have informed them about the debts.
Former committee president Rafael Fonseca told The Voice of Guanacaste that the debt is a recurring problem that was left unresolved in previous committees.
The CCSS debt was completely paralyzed (when they took over at the end of 2016) and when we took over we made a payment arrangement,” he said.
The sports complex is a monsterous 70,000 square meters (753,474 square feet) with a track, olympic pool, three tennis courts, a soccer field and a gym for basketball and volleyball. It was built in 2002 with money from the Costa Rican Sports and Recreation Institute (Icoder) in order to host the national games that year.
Since then, maintaining the facilities is the main struggle of each board of directors. The new sports committee meets two or three nights per week for as much as five hours in the offices of the sports complex. Their greatest concern is that the olympic pool consumes 38 percent of CCDRN’s budget, which leaves them with less money for investing in sports and recreation.
The previous committee had the same problem and an city audit from June 2017 confirms it.
Fonseca says that while the city gives the committee three percent of annual revenue (as established by law) most of the money is used to pay for maintaining the installations and not for hosting sports and recreation activities.
“Sometimes that money is a lot and sometimes it’s not much, but when there is a deficit we have to prioritize expenses,” he says.
For example, previous committees only paid coaches the first six months in order to prepare athletes for tournaments and the national games. Since there was no money to cover the second six months, athletes didn’t receive any more training. Some coaches, though, continued ad-honorem. The new committee promises to change this.
Seeking Was Out
Before wrapping up, the previous committees board of directors was considering an internal rule that is about to be published and become binding. The document requires the committee to spend just 10 percent of money it receives from the city to salaries and maintenance. The rest must be invested in sports and recreation.
The question now is how the new committee will generate enough revenue to maintain the payroll, pay debts and finance the installations.
We are trying to have the committee offer swimming lessons and other recreational activities to generate income,” Baltodano said. “Host tournaments, knock on the doors of schools to see if we can have a championship for children.”
Previously, those who used to use the complex in order to give private lessons never paid the committee. Now they must pay them 10 percent of what they make,.
Swimming coach Diego Fajardo and basketball coach Julio Morales both agree with the change.
“The complex used to be no man’s land,” Fajardo said. “People profit and that becomes a problem because you can see it in the maintenance of the pool, for example. These are positive changes because they are trying to put the house in order.”
Mayor Adriana Rodríguez said during a city council meeting that the city would invest ¢13 million in improvements for the pool and finding an unused well. “That will help us alleviate water payments,” she said.
The new board of directors is seeking to revitalize the CCDRN’s finances with that investment, host activities to create revenue and make changes to billing for private instructors.