The regional government did its part to “set up for the goal” of a June 4 bid to the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) for a Gibsons-based franchise. If the bid succeeds, the goal is to have a team on the ice locally for the 2024/2025 season.
At a May 11 Sunshine Coast Regional District committee meeting, items the Sunshine Coast Junior Hockey Society (SCJHS) and owners of the proposed team, Coastal Sports and Entertainment Group, needed for the bid were supported and sent for May 25 board consideration.
Recommendations on the use of the Gibsons and Area Community Centre (GACC) as home ice for a potential Junior B hockey franchise passed committee review with little debate. Those included the preparation of a five-year facility use agreement with a new junior ice rental rate starting at $120 per hour, as well as direction for further staff work on required legal arrangements and facility upgrade plans. A letter of support for the SCJHS was also recommended.
An 'ambitious but achievable' plan
“Opportunities like this do not come along that often, I am excited and thankful the community is behind it,” SCJHS spokesperson Stuart Frizzell said during a society presentation at the committee meeting. “Seeing yet another community lead initiative, a barn-raising as you will, will have positive impacts for the community."
He acknowledged that if the bid succeeds, the 14-month plan to build what is needed to support team play starting in September 2024, “is ambitious but is achievable." He said he was “confident they will get to where they need to by August 2024."
That will include working with the Town of Gibsons to allow for the construction of a dressing room/training facility on town property. It will also mean working with the SCRD to connect that new building to the GACC and on upgrades within that regionally owned facility.
Frizzell noted that the society is in contact with the Sunshine Coast Foundation regarding grants and other funding opportunities to help pay for those projects. Their proposal is for the society to pay for and own the new building. Enhancements to GACC would be funded by the society and donated back to the community.
Costs to taxpayers
Staff have received the business case from the society. Staff noted details on the financial impacts of the new ice rental rate, which requires subsidization to cover facility operating costs, will come forward as part of the 2024 budget discussion if the team proposal proceeds.