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Funding cut for sports groups

Sunshine Coast community sports groups are reeling from news that their gaming grants will be negligible -or else denied outright.

Sunshine Coast community sports groups are reeling from news that their gaming grants will be negligible -or else denied outright.

The Sunshine Coast Skating Club recently received a letter from the province stating that it would receive only $12,600 of the $53,000 the club applied for.

"Given global economic circumstances, the provincial government has had to establish priorities for community gaming grants and this year, the grants will include support for youth, disabled and seniors sports organizations," the letter, signed by assistant deputy minister Derek Sturko of the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, reads. "To help as many organizations as possible, the amount of funding we will be able to provide to any individual organization is limited and youth and disabled sports organizations will generally receive less funding in 2009/10."

This news, club president Jill-Marie Jarvis said, is devastating.

"I don't want to panic the public, but at the same time, I think it's important that people know that it could potentially end the club," she said.

Not only will the club be looking at significant programming cutbacks, but with coaching agreements signed and user agreements in place for ice time, the club could find itself liable for breach of contract if it can't scrounge up the funds to meet its financial commitments.

"There's just so many fears I don't know what are the most important," she said. "I guess the biggest is yet another healthy option that is going to be taken away from the youth of our community, because they have nothing here. And with cuts, cuts and more cuts, they continually get their options taken away from them."

The Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey Association also received a letter, saying that it would receive only $9,000 of the $30,000 it expected to receive.

"It's going to have a large impact on us," association vice president Ian Martin said. "We have to find some way to make up that deficit and we're going to have to do as much fundraising as we possibly can. We'll have to be hitting up all the corporate sponsors and hope that there's still some corporate sponsorship available out there to make up the difference because as a non-profit association we cannot run a deficit."

And while the association is no stranger to fundraising, this year's funding needs are in a whole new league. Furthermore, he said, this funding crunch comes in an already-challenging year.

"This year, because of the Olympics, the whole hockey season is kind of thrown into a big mess as it is, with our earlier season and ice times being cancelled because of the Olympic venues," he said. "So this on top of it just makes things unbearable."

The Gibsons Curling Club's letter stated that its gaming grant application has been denied outright.

"Of course we're disappointed," said club vice president Tony Todosychuk.

The club, he said, usually makes enough money from its members to break even on operating costs, but this year it's grappling with an aging building.

"We have some major repairs that we have to do on our building, so it means that we'll have to dip into our reserves," he said. "We're still going to be able to run the curling club, but if we come into a major expense, we're going to get pretty tight."

Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons decried the cuts to gaming grants as misplaced provincial government priorities.

"How can this government pretend they're committed to reducing illiteracy or promoting physical activity, or supporting people with disabilities, or our arts communities, when the first cuts are aimed at these programs?" he asked.

Calls placed to the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, which oversees gaming grants, seeking comment were not returned by press deadline Thursday morning.