Bowing to pressure from user groups, the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) has cancelled plans to remove the ice surface almost one week early at the Gibsons and Area Community Centre.
The decision, passed by directors at the March 13 community services committee meeting, followed an appeal by the Sunshine Coast Skating Club for the SCRD to make good on its commitment to keep ice in both the Gibsons and Sechelt arenas until the end of March.
"Our membership is notably displeased at being moved to the Sechelt arena for the last week of skating, contrary to what we agreed to in ice allocation meetings, in addition to the absolute unavailability of spring ice this season," Sunshine Coast Skating Club secretary Stacey Rosenberg said in a letter to the board.
Recreation services manager Bruce Bauman confirmed that user groups were told last June that both ice surfaces would be available until March 28. However, due to cancelled arena bookings and a decline in the number of user groups, the closing date for Gibsons was moved up to March 23, then changed to March 24, in order to schedule dry-floor events earlier and recoup some lost revenue.
"So we informed the user groups that we were closing on the 24th and offered them the same ice time at Sechelt arena for that week," Bauman told the committee. "The reason we decided to close Gibsons and Area Community Centre arena first is because it's the most expensive arena to operate."
Savings from the early ice closure were estimated at $4,300 per week for either facility, plus up to an additional $500 a day for Gibsons due to extra staffing required.
Directors from Gibsons and surrounding rural areas panned the move, with West Howe Sound director Lee Turnbull quoting a letter from the Sunshine Coast Skating Club's Ashley Martin estimating that two-thirds of the club's membership "are Gibsons residents/taxpayers and have planned their lives/schedules around the Gibsons scheduled ice they paid for."
In the end, the committee passed a motion by Elphinstone director Lorne Lewis to keep the Gibsons arena open until March 28, as originally scheduled.
"I am totally in favour of you building interest in two sheets of ice," Lewis told staff. "I don't see how you can do that when you change your dates and don't keep your commitments."
Asked by board chair Garry Nohr if the decision meant both arenas would stay open until March 28, Bauman replied: "If you don't have both open, you'll have the same issues the other way."
The committee passed a second motion by Roberts Creek director Donna Shugar calling for more effective engagement with user groups when it comes to booking SCRD facilities.
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