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Local associations plead with Council for reduced ice costs

January 21, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

All minor hockey is cancelled throughout Ontario, and will remain that way for the duration of the provincial emergency order that was declared on Jan. 12 in response to COVID-19.

While local organizations don’t expect to be on the ice anytime soon, representatives from the Orangeville Minor Hockey Association (OMHA), Skate Canada, and Orangeville Tigers Girls Hockey delivered a presentation to Town Council on Jan. 11, requesting that ice time costs be cut in half, so they can continue their programs. 

The local groups have run into financial challenges, due to COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of players on each team and keeping them to four on four, which has created a massive increase in the amount of ice time needed to play.

“Under normal circumstances, Orangeville Minor Hockey, Orangeville Tigers and Skate Canada ice rentals can include anywhere from 10 to 50 skaters per hour, Due to the restrictions we’re limited to 10,” said OMHA President Rick Stevens during a presentation to Council.

“Our costs now have increased exponentially. Our plan is to provide all our members the equal opportunity to be on the ice at least once a week and in order to do this we will need to rent a significant amount of added ice time from the Town.”

OMHA is down over $250,000 this season due to added ice time costs and lower registration numbers, which accounts for 30 per cent of its revenue in a regular year.

Stevens warned that each team under the association can only play eight more games until they’re completely out of cash for ice rentals.

“It’s not viable for our associations to continue to pay the full amount of $186.76 plus HST for a 50 minute ice rental and still offer our programming for the youth of Orangeville that they desperately need,” he explained. 

Orangeville Council was responsive to the presentation and request for ice time costs to be reduced so they can continue their programs. 

The cost of waiving the fees is approximately $120,000, which Council asked to be added to their budget discussions. A motion was also made directing Town staff to investigate the request, accurately determine all of the associated costs, and see if hockey programming can be extended through the summer months to account for cancelled games. 

The usual cost of a 50 minute ice rental is $186.76 plus HST, which would be reduced to $93.38 if Council moves forward with cutting the cost in half.

In a normal season, the OMHA has nearly 1,000 members playing competitive and recreational hockey, this year, with the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, they only had 675 players register, accounting for about a 30 per cent reduction.

The rosters have been adjusted from an average of 15 per team down to 10. This created the need to add more teams, so they now have 75 instead of the usual 41.

With almost twice as many teams, the demand for volunteers, coaches, and trainers has skyrocketed.

There are many added costs associated with the extra teams and usually the OMHA hosts tournaments which act as fundraisers for the association, but they were cancelled due to COVID-19

A total of $172,000 was lost in registration and $84,000 in fundraising revenue was lost due to the cancellation of tournaments, accounting for more than a quarter million in change. 

Despite the large shortfall in revenue this year, Stevens said the OMHA didn’t feel it was appropriate to seek sponsorships from the community at this time.

“We just didn’t feel it was something we should do to our businesses when some of them are already struggling,” he reasoned.

Meanwhile, Michelle White from the Orangeville Tigers notes their programs usually see anywhere from 15 to 35 skaters on the ice at one time, which has also been reduced to 10.

They had the same ask as OMHA, for Council to reduce ice rental fees by 50 per cent for the remainder of the season, so they can continue to operate.

In working with Public Health, the Orangeville Tigers were out on the ice as of Sep. 2 and stayed on until Dec. 23, before the Boxing Day lockdown for the Province.

The Tigers have seen a drop in revenues of about $32,000 compared to year’s past, due to a loss of sponsors, no tournament fundraisers, lower registration numbers and providing the cost of programs at their early bird rate to help families who may have been struggling financially from the impacts of COVID-19.

“We anticipate it will take another year or two until tournaments are allowed to take place again,” White noted.

“Without any revenue from tournaments this year, we will be running a huge deficit.”

Meanwhile, Louise Johnson from the local Skate Canada organization, which teaches power skating, figure skating and skate training, also presented to Council alongside the Orangeville Tigers and OMHA.

She said they’re facing the same financial challenges, brought on by COVID-19.

“We actually ended up increasing our registration [fee] to cover the ice [cost] knowing we could only have so many kids on the ice at one time,” Johnson explained.

“Some of our programs through the fall ran at a loss, some of our other programs were actually able to help somewhat even that out, but that was just to cover the cost of coaching and the ice, not any of our extra expenses like badges, cleaning supplies, etc.”

Just like OMHA and the Orangeville Tigers, Skate Canada has also been unable to fundraise this year

Johnson said Skate Canada’s primary challenge is the cleaning requirements and buffer times between classes. 

They were able to operate with 15 skaters on the ice at once prior to the lockdown, but if the limit is 10 when they reopen, registration costs will double, if ice rental fees aren’t cut in half.

Town Manager of Corporate Services, Ray Osmond noted that the ice rental fee reduction would be a $120,000 cost to Council.

Coun. Todd Taylor says that cost reduction is a “fair shake of cash” from the taxpayer’s perspective, but minor hockey brings such a benefit to the community and is an important sport for keeping young people from sitting idle in their homes. 

A report from Town staff on the issue is expected at Council’s next meeting on Jan. 25, where a decision will be made on the cost of ice rentals for when local associations return to play.



         

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