|Posted by Dave Springett on March 13, 2011 at 9:48 AM|
By PAUL TURENNE, Winnipeg Sun
A proposed 22% jump in the cost of ice time rentals at city-run rinks will result in a substantial hit to the wallets of Winnipeg’s senior hockey players.
The proposal was contained in the city’s 2011 preliminary operating budget, which was tabled last Monday and goes to council for a vote later this month.
Among increases to more than 175 categories of recreational user fees are plans to boost youth ice time rental rates by 12% and adult rates by a whopping 22%, both effective July 1. The rate for prime time adult ice would climb to nearly $260 per hour including tax, which is among the highest rates in Canada’s major cities.
“It’s very steep,” said Kelly Clarke, president of the Winnipeg Women’s Hockey League, which uses three city rinks. “We have 18-year-old girls who are all in university and cost is a factor for sure.”
Rod Brockie, co-president of the Winnipeg Central Hockey League, said he figures the hike will increase the average annual fee for his league’s players from about $375 to roughly $450.
“If it was going back into the facilities I think they’d be a lot more comfortable with it, but everybody feels it’s just going into the city’s general revenues,” Brockie said.
Last April, an internal city report said the average condition of Winnipeg’s 15 municipally run rinks — all of which were built between 1960 and 1975 — is “nearing a crisis state” and it would cost millions just to maintain the status quo.
The report said the current single-rink model is “financially unsustainable,” which prompted the city to put out a call to the private sector for ideas about third-party management and multiplex rinks.
Coun. Gord Steeves, Winnipeg’s community services chair, said the city is still awaiting the results of that request for proposals.
Steeves said the proposed ice time rate hike is “not great, obviously,” but said the idea is to have the adults pay more so kids can pay less.
“The core service is primarily kids hockey. We don’t make money on our arenas, believe me,” Steeves said. “We’re subsidizing the kids using the rinks with adult costs because there are precious few recreational opportunities for kids in winter in this city.”
Brockie doesn’t agree with that strategy.
“The government of Canada is trying to get kids and adults more active, and adding more fees to the participation will cut into that,” he said. “Participation should be (for everyone), no matter what age.”