Council supports user groups with reduction in ice rental fees

February 26, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Orangeville Council unanimously voted to reduce ice rental fees for local minor hockey groups and Skate Canada last week, so they can complete their seasons now that Dufferin is in the red control zone for COVID-19 restrictions.

Dufferin moved out of total lockdown on Feb. 16, allowing sports groups to have 10 players on the ice at a time, without contact. 

While the move permits ice time for youth, Orangeville Tigers Girls Hockey, Orangeville Minor Hockey, and Skate Canada couldn’t afford to pay the regular $186 per hour ice rental fee and continue their seasons, without a cost reduction.

While the groups initial ask was a 50 per cent cut to ice costs, they were happy to receive what’s called a “non-primetime” rate, which is $116 per hour, saving them $70 per game, which is enough for them complete their season in mid-April.

Built into Council’s motion for the reduction was also a request to Town staff to prepare a report on the costs to reduce fees for other user groups such as the Orangeville Otters Swim Club, which sent a letter to Council asking for lower fees as they’ve seen a nearly 50 per cent reduction in registration.

I was struggling at first to support this because we weren’t looking at other minor sports, but because we are now looking at all of our minor sports and making sure that we’re being equitable amongst them, I’m definitely much more comfortable supporting this tonight,” said Coun. Lisa Post, who supported the motion.

All councillors agreed that if they’re providing reduced fees to some minor sports group, they should be supporting others in the same way, since they’re unable to fundraise and struggling with reduced registration numbers due to COVID-19. 

Rick Stevens of the Orangeville Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) noted that the amount of ice time left in the association’s season equates to roughly $71,120 in revenue at the non-primetime rate, while keeping ice in costs around $25,000 per month per pad, plus staffing costs. 

Skate Canada and Orangeville Girls Hockey Association’s (OGHA) ice rentals would add onto the OMHA’s $71,120 in revenue, so the Town isn’t operating at a loss to offer ice programs, they’re just taking in less profit then if they charged the full ice rental fee, that’s about 37 per cent higher. 

When looking outside of Orangeville, it isn’t uncommon for municipalities to assist minor hockey groups with ice rental costs during the pandemic. The Town of Halton reduced their fees by 50 per cent, Burlington and Milton also lowered ice rentals by 50 per cent, while Oakville dropped their fees by 25 per cent.

“The basic conclusion for this was the impact of COVID-19 has affected the ability of minor ice and floor user groups to financially support the hourly rate of town facilities for their return to sport based on the ice and floor user groups capacity,” said Stevens. 

It’s important to note, only two ice pads will be available for the duration of the season as a dry floor is needed for the Alder Recreation Centre, which is being used by Public Health as a mass vaccination site.

Prior to Council’s motion, Don Williamson, OGHA ice scheduler, outlined the importance of hockey for the mental health of youth, along with the fact they make the sport as accessible as possible to all families, regardless of their financial situation. 

The registration fee operates on a sliding scale. They do this to encourage and enable as many families to experience hockey as possible, said Williamson.

Throughout the year skill sessions are also offered at cost and their biannual tournaments see high attendance, bringing a net benefit to the local economy.

The tournaments then subsidize the OGHA’s sliding registration fees.

Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program also helps youth who want to play boys or girls hockey get financial assistance with some registration fees. 

OGHA members are made aware of local equipment sales and swaps as well, said Williamson.

“We try to make hockey accessible for all girls who want to play, but we as an organization can only do so much. We are a non-profit organization that depends on fees, sponsorships and tournaments provide opportunities for the girls,” he noted. “The overwhelming majority of costs of hockey participation is the Ice fees, which are controlled by the Town.”

“We are not asking for a handout. We are not asking for a grant and we are certainly not asking for taxpayer money to be use. For us. We’re just asking for some help with the fees that are the main costs, which we have no control over,” Williamson added, when making OGHA’s request to Council for reduced ice fees.

Meanwhile, Skate Canada operates differently than hockey, they do their programming in five-week intervals and won’t be able to their CanSkate due to financial challenges but can operate their STARSkate program. 

Registration fees went up 121 per cent for older participants of the STARSkate program and 82 per cent for the younger ones, just to cover their overhead costs, as less players could be on the ice at one time and they couldn’t fundraise. 

At a future council meeting, town staff will deliver a report on the implications of reducing their fees for other minor sports groups who use the town’s facilities

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