By Barb McKay
The municipality will look at temporarily lowering ice rental rates in Tiverton and freezing rates in Kincardine to see if it can increase usage at the arenas.
Rob Bishop of the Kincardine Minor Hockey Association and Dan Norman of the Tiverton Minor Hockey Association attended last Wednesday’s council meeting to appeal to council to not raise ice rental rates at the two arenas. The rental costs, they say, are just too high.
“Our minor sports organizations aren’t booking as much ice time and it’s just sitting empty,” Bishop said. “As a non-profit organization, we have to look out for our members.”
Recreation director Karen Kieffer brought a report to last week’s meeting proposing to up ice rental rates by one per cent. Last year, she said, the Tiverton Sports Centre suffered an operating loss of roughly $74,000 and the arena at the Davidson Centre lost more than $90,000.
But Bishop argued that if rates continue to rise, the minor hockey organizations will book even less ice time. Rates are cheaper in Ripley, he said, and teams will go there rather than to Tiverton. In addition, Bishop said, teams can cancel ice time a day before they are booked in Ripley and not be penalized.
“As someone who grew up here playing hockey I want to see both arenas succeed,” he said. “But there has to be a balance.”
Registration rates for minor hockey are increasing as rental rates increase and the number of players who sign up is declining. If Tiverton Minor Hockey doesn’t get enough players it could collapse, Bishop said.
Higher ice rates also make it difficult for adult shinny teams and families to rent the ice, Bishop said. He and Norman would both like to use open ice time, but just can’t afford it.
“We don’t spend enough on our kids. Giving them something to do is very important.”
The minor hockey associations requested that Kincardine consider lowering its ice rental rates to match Ripley’s and to offer last minute open ice time at a discounted rate.
Deputy mayor Anne Eadie suggested that Tiverton rates be lowered and that Kincardine’s rates be frozen for a year to see if there is more usage.
Mayor Larry Kraemer pointed out that it costs money to operate the arenas and it may make more sense to leave the rates alone and instead offer more ice time to users. For example, if minor hockey rents the ice for four hours, offer a fifth hour for free.
Councillor Ken Craig said if the arenas continue to suffer operating losses the municipality will look at closing the Tiverton arena and turning it into a year-round indoor soccer facility, which might see more use.
Councillor Maureen Couture said she would like to see Eadie’s suggestion tried out for a year. Recreation facilities don’t make money, she said, and a one per cent increase in rates isn’t going to change that.
Council directed staff to bring back a report with Ripley’s ice rental rates so that it can make a decision at its May 21 meeting.