Confused parents frequently end up at the wrong location, and players complain about the hectic schedule. Adding insult to injury, a solution is visible most nights to Julian Swearengin, the team’s founder, from his apartment, which has a view of East River Park.

“There are many nights when soccer and football fields are empty,” said Mr. Swearengin, who is a former coach of the team, which is for children up to 15. “On the same night, my kids are wedged into a corner on Pier 40. There’s certainly an overall frustration that there’s no consistency with the permits.”

Soon, the system that maddens Mr. Swearengin and many others may be reformed. For the first time since 1999, the city’s parks department has proposed changes to its permit system, raising hopes that the grip many leagues have on coveted ball fields will be loosened, according to an article in the New York Times.

A hearing regarding the rules change is scheduled for Jan. 26 at 11 a.m. at the Chelsea Recreation Center.

Last year, the parks department issued 2,233 permits in 50,808 time slots for ball fields in Manhattan. Under the current system, permits can be renewed in perpetuity if no problems arise. A vast majority of permits granted each year are renewals, the parks department said.

Under the new rules that the agency has proposed, youth leagues applying for new permits would be given priority. The department would also have the right to reduce the hours of field time for adult leagues that dominate a particular park.

In Central Park, the two top permit holders are adult leagues, the United Athletic Association and Manhattan Indoor-Outdoor Sports, which together controlled 634 of 8,484 time slots in 2011, or about 7.5 percent, according to a permit database obtained through a Freedom of Information request. That percentage may go down under the new rules.

The proposals are in part a response to complaints from league administrators at meetings around the city. In the area covered by Community Board 3 in Manhattan, which includes Chinatown and the Lower East Side, around 20 league operators have bemoaned a permit system that they described as obscure and ripe for abuse.

“We are turning away hundreds of kids because we still have the same permits from 10 years ago, when we had half the kids,” said Tony Rivera, the finance director of the 53-year-old Our Lady of Sorrows Little League, whose games are played in East River Park.

“We see adult leagues using more space, and we wonder how they’re increasing and growing and our ability to gain more space is capped.”

Al Morales, the president of the United Athletic Association, said, “The problem is that people have a permit and they hoard it.”

Some leagues hold on to fields even when they do not plan to use them, for fear that alerting the parks department to an available time would lead to losing the slot permanently, he said.

“If people knew that they could return the permit and get it back,” he said, “that would probably cut down on the hoarding.”

Liam Kavanagh, the first deputy commissioner for the parks department, said the proposed changes included improvements in data management to make the process more transparent. But most important, the changes would enshrine in policy the city’s commitment to youth sports, he said.

“The rationale for giving youth leagues priority is that kids, for the most part, are most likely to play sports as part of organized leagues, and that they are less able to travel to other parks or communities and play in the late evenings, unlike adult leagues,” Mr. Kavanagh wrote in an e-mail.

Still, Mr. Morales expressed some concern that the changes could push out longtime permit holders — the other adult league he founded, the Yorkville Sports Association, has organized games for 33 years.

But relative newcomers to the scene are eager for change.

“While we appreciate the field time we have secured, we’ve come to feel that the parks department is not in charge of their own permit process,” said Matthew Penrose, the founder of Group Stage, which organizes casual soccer games for children and adults. “Instead, there are those of us that spend an inordinate amount of time fighting for scraps while others get just about anything they want.”

Applicants new and old complain that they are usually in the dark about who controls a ball field at a given time, and typically have no way of knowing what times will be available next season. Both longtime permit holders and newcomers said making the permit database accessible to the public would cut down on abuse of the system.

Tobi Bergman, a former official of the parks department and now the Community Board 2 parks committee chairman, said that ideally a person passing by an empty field could view the permit database from a smartphone to see who should be using it. “If I go out to a park and no one is there,” Mr. Bergman said, “I should be able to easily find out who is supposed to be there.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 16, 2012

Because of an editing error, an article in some editions on Friday about a proposed overhaul of the parks department permit system for ball fields in New York City misspelled, at one point, the surname of the founder of a children’s football team, the Downtown Giants, that practices in the parks. As the article correctly noted elsewhere, he is Julian Swearengin, not Swearingen.