Discussions key to a proposed Junior B hockey team for Gibsons are slated for May 11.
On the agenda for the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) committee meeting scheduled for 10:30 a.m. is a report on Sunshine Coast Junior Hockey Society and Coastal Sport and Entertainment Group's efforts to achieve that goal.
That company would be the franchise owners and the society supporters of “the establishment and sustainability of the junior hockey program” on the Coast, the update states.
The two entities plan to present their team franchise proposal at the Pacific Junior Hockey League’s (PJHL) annual general meeting on June 4. According to the report it is anticipated a league decision will be made that day on whether a team based in the SCRD’s Gibsons and Area Community Centre (GACC) will hit the ice as early as September 2024.
New building plan
The June 2022 request to expand the arena itself has been abandoned. Current plans are to construct a separate 557 square metre building on the arena’s south side to house team change rooms, offices, storage and a dryland training area, says the report. The Town of Gibsons confirmed support in principle for that proposal on March 7. Discussions between the municipality and the society regarding a lease of town land for that structure are under way. Should that be endorsed, the proposal is for the society to pay for, own and operate the new building. No cost estimates or funding plan for that building or proposed changes at GACC were included in the report.
The adjusted plans for the arena would also see the society build an “access structure” to link that facility to the new building. Such a project would require SCRD board approval, as would other potential changes within the arena. In the plans are improvements to seating, lighting and the sound system. The addition of a media box, dedicated internet access capacity to live-stream events as well as kitchen upgrades are also anticipated. If completed, the report states that the society plans to transfer ownership of any GACC enhancements to the SCRD.
Also outlined in the report is that the company plans to host games under SCRD special event permits which could include the ability to sell alcoholic beverages, concession items and to manage facility parking.
What SCRD decisions are called for
Staff’s recommendation to the committee is that approval of changes at GACC be contingent on local government review and approval of the improvements and the society’s plan to pay for them.
Included in the report is an ask that SCRD elected officials instruct staff to continue working with the groups on the legal arrangements. Those include pursuing a five-year agreement with the company for priority ice allocations at a rate of $120 per hour (with annual increases of up to five per cent each following season) and a request for an SCRD letter of support for the society’s submission of a proposal to the PJHL and its ongoing fundraising efforts. Recommendations from the committee require board endorsement, which could be considered at its May 11 or 25 meeting.
More details; workplan adjustments needed
Still to be provided to SCRD staff are business plans that the board requested when the concept surfaced late last spring.
The timelines for regional district actions need to obtain a team for the Coast are “aggressive and may not be achievable”, the staff report states.
“This is a new priority and expense that was not anticipated in 2023 Service Plans or the annual operating budget and may require a future financial plan amendment…Time spent on this project will delay other priorities identified in annual service plans”, staff wrote.
The franchise applicants advised SCRD staff that showcase events featuring PJHL games hosted at GACC by the society in October 2022 and January 2023 drew close to 500 spectators to each of the four games and just shy of 40 business sponsors. The report details that “PJHL executives attended the showcase events and afterward expressed an interest in once again, entertaining a proposal for a franchise on the Sunshine Coast.”