The University of Montana put a slight kink in the normally laidback, unruffled and sizable Ultimate community late last month, telling a group of disc tossers to leave Dornblazer Field or ante up a standard user fee. Players were told that if they continued to use UM property without agreeing to the fee, arrests would be made.
“But we’re not a group, people just sorta show up to play,” says John O’Conner, a long-time local Ultimate player and a default voice of the community. “It’s just a given in Missoula that if you want to play Ultimate, you just show up. If there are enough people to play, you do. If there’s not, you don’t.”
This summer, however, enough people were flocking to Dornblazer every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening to capture UM’s interest. Approximately 25 players show up for an average pick-up game, with rare nights attracting as many as 100. UM believed there was enough traffic to warrant the standard $55 half-day fee.
“Any type of regular use [means] its subject to a rental fee,” says Brian Fruit, assistant director for facilities at UM. “We normally rent fields for use like intramurals or Campus Rec. This is a little outside our standard user group.”
On July 4, O’Conner reached a temporary compromise with the University. Both parties agreed that half-day rentals seemed inappropriate for two-hour pick-up games, so Fruit and O’Conner cut the fee in half. O’Conner says whomever shows up to play will split the nightly bill.
“The fields are maintained for students, and their student fees cover the costs,” says Fruit. “Its reasonable for regular groups to pay a minimal user fee or rental fee to offset those costs.”