By Barb McKay
Kincardine needs to address its arena ice rates before its facilities are no longer being used, according to minor sports representatives.
Rob Bishop, president of the Kincardine Minor Hockey Association (KMHA), and Mary Ritter, president of the Kincardine Skating Club, made a presentation to Kincardine council during its meeting last Wednesday requesting that the municipality reduce or freeze its ice rates and form a committee to review its ice rental policy.
Bishop said the problem is one that is three-fold; in recent years, the municipality started increasing its ice rental rates, it began decreasing its development grant to minor hockey and HST was introduced. In the past five years, Bishop noted, the development grant has been cut in half. In 2009/2010 the KMHA received $27,762. In 2012/2013, the association received $15,277. Over the same time frame ice rental costs have nearly doubled. In 2008, KHMA paid a little less than $96,000. Last year, it paid more than $147,000.
“We’ve had to raise our (registration rates) by $50 every year to build our reserves,” Bishop said.
Dan Norman, vice-president of Tiverton Minor Sports, wrote a letter to the municipality requesting that it change the way it approaches operating its arenas.
“Hockey is a love of mine and the slow decline in its enrollment at the minor level is extremely disheartening,” he wrote. “It is discouraging to see facility usage begin to wane when there are ample members of the community still available to use it. But lack of use may well become commonplace if a reality check is not soon implemented. Annual increases downloaded to the end user will force more and more to consider and reconsider the cost of using the arena for organized sporting activities.”
In his letter,
Because registration fees are increasing to help offset rising ice rental fees, some families are choosing not to sign up,
“We have families now that face difficult decisions regarding being able to afford organized winter activities and my ultimate concern lies with inclusion of all.”
Ritter said her organization has a similar concern. While fundraisers, like the annual Home and Garden Show, help to keep registration costs down, increasing ice rental rates have forced the club to reduce its ice time.
“The Kincardine Skating Club wants to continue to offer services to our community,” she said. “It would be great to see that even on warm summer days, the rink could be busy with figure skating camps,
recreational learn to skate programs, hockey games and minor hockey.”
Bishop said a declining enrollment in minor hockey is leading to a trend in hockey centre amalgamation, which in turn, is leading to decreased use of arenas. Kincardine also looks elsewhere, at times, to save money. On average, hourly ice rates in are $116 in Kincardine, $109 in Tiverton and $108 in Ripley. In
“In an effort to reduce costs, KMHA has started using surrounding municipal arenas that offer cheaper rates,” Bishop said. “Ripley, for example, is cheaper and the policy allows for cancellation of ice times during the season and reduced tournament rates. This directly resulted in the Tiverton arena losing a day’s worth of games during last year’s Silver Stick tournament. This is lost revenue for the
Bishop added that KMHA hosts 14 teams on average each week, as well as 46 teams for two annual tournaments this year. Visiting teams eat in local restaurants, stay at hotels and fill their vehicles with gas, all of which benefits the local economy, he said.
Councillor Jacqueline Faubert said the council is not ignoring minor sports.
“There’s a lot of questions that arise,” she said. “As councillors, we live in this municipality as well and we have kids. You never have to convince us of the importance of what you’re doing or how special the kids are; they are our kids too.”
Councillor Ron Coristine said the municipality should sit down with sporting groups before setting rental rates. He suggested that rates should be reduced by five per cent for the next two years and then revisited again.
Deputy mayor Anne Eadie said setting up an ad hoc committee to discuss rates and policies would be a good plan. She said Kincardine should look at other municipalities to see how they handle ice rentals. Recreation director Karen Kieffer said a rates study was conducted a few years ago and Kincardine’s rates were lower than some. She said current rates are in effect until September 2014, so there is plenty of time to sit down with sports organizations.
“We would be more than happy to sit down with them and discuss a path forward,” she said.
Councillor Ken Craig said the solution would not be as simple as rolling back rates. He hinted that there may be other ways to fill empty ice slots.
“We could have top notch indoor soccer if we got creative with hockey,” he said. “And that’s all I’ll say about that for now.”
Council directed staff to meet with sports group representatives, compare rates with neighbouring municipalities and bring back a proposal for next year.