A drop in arena usage has led to some changes to help make Chatham-Kent's facilities viable into the future.
On Monday, staff made several recommendations to council concerning arenas and canteens as part of the service sustainability review process.
Council approved the overall report along with an amendment from West Kent Coun. Bryon Fluker asking administration to consider a tiered costing for adult prime time ice rates in order to compete with abutting municipalities.
“I think at the end of the day there will certainly be an adjustment in rates one way or the other, so we can better compete,” he said after the meeting. “Certainly I think tiered would be a route to go for prime time, but if staff came back with some other solution that makes us competitive with the abutting municipalities, I'm fine with that.”
Chatham-Kent's ice rates are currently $207.71 per hour for the prime adult rate, while non-prime minor is $165.99 per hour.
The report also lists the prime adult rates for neighbouring communities, with Mooretown having the lowest at $150 per hour. Most of the other rates average in the $180-$190 range.
The cost of ice sports, a declining population and residents finding different interests for recreational activities are among the reasons cited leading to the decline in usage.
“There are fewer kids and it's awfully expensive,” Fluker said.
Staff's recommendations included:
- The full-time union staffing complement at William K. Erickson Arena and Chatham Memorial Arena be reduced from a three-to a two-person system through attrition;
- Weekday non-prime time hours of operation be modified to better reflect the current demand for ice rentals and ice programming, at a combined savings with the first recommendation of $136,363;
- A request for interest be issued concerning the outsourcing of canteen operations in municipal arenas;
- The existing three part-time union and one part-time non-union canteen supervisor positions be restructured to meet the current demands, at a net savings of $20,954;
- A holiday discounted “last minute” rental rate of $100 per hour be implemented;
There is also a base budget adjustment of $106,319 to reflect the declining revenue for ice programming and rentals, resulting in a net savings of $50,998 for the entire report.
In recent years, minor hockey groups facing declining registration have merged with other communities, reducing the number of organizations in Chatham-Kent from eleven to nine.
These mergers have resulted in decreased ice rental hours at some of the municipality's 10 arenas.
“We have been diligently keeping our costs down whenever possible,” said Evelyn Bish, director of community services, citing staff reductions and energy conservation.
Mayor Randy Hope said ice sports can be prohibitively expensive for many families.
He also noted there are fewer dollars available from the federal or provincial governments compared to the past for facilities.
“Those are things we're all faced with,” he said.