A special Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board meeting has been scheduled for Nov. 15 at 1 p.m. The lone agenda item relates to a request for ice installation at the Sunshine Coast Arena made by the Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey Association (SCMHA).
The association’s “winter classic” tournament for girls in the under 13 and under 15-year-old age groups is booked to start Nov. 25. With no ice in the Sechelt facility and seven to 10 days needed to install a skating surface, the event, the Coast’s inaugural female minor hockey tournament, is in peril.
SCMHA president Adam Gibson told Coast Reporter it won’t happen unless water for that arena, normally supplied through the Chapman water system, can be secured. System users have been on Stage 4 water restrictions since Aug. 31. An order effective Nov. 11 under the SCRD State of Local Emergency continued the ban on use of system water to produce ice at the facility located on Shoal Way.
In a letter emailed earlier this month to the board, the association detailed that “installation of ice at the Sechelt rink would require up to 26,000 litres of water. Previous boards have visited the idea for the use of water tankers and the historical well beside the arena as solutions to what seems to be an annual delay in installation.”
Association wants to work with the SCRD
The association wants the SCRD to use alternate water sources to ensure the facility is ready for the tournament and local use. It has also offered to help. Gibson stated the group remains “frustrated” as it has written the SCRD Board and reached out to staff, suggesting options and advising them that a decision on cancelling the upcoming competition needs to be made by Nov. 15. The event has teams registered from across the lower mainland with between 130 and 150 players and their families set to travel to the Coast. He stated it is “only fair” to provide advance notice if the event can’t proceed.
The hockey group estimated that cancellation of the tournament would mean the loss of approximately $150,000 in revenue for area accommodation providers, restaurants, retailers and attractions. “The cancellation of this tournament will also directly impact Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey’s fundraising revenue as tournaments account for half of all fundraising revenues raised for the association,” its letter stated.
On Nov. 14, SCRD staff stated they were not aware of the historic well referred to by the association or its capacity to provide water at the site. They did not confirm if discussions with the SCMHA have been or will be held.
Parents reach out
While the association waits for a response, local families involved in minor hockey are reaching out with letters to the board of their own.
Parent and minor hockey team manager Shannon Geue wrote to the Coast’s regional and municipal governments suggesting other arena water supply alternatives, including onsite rainwater collection or use of non-potable water for ice installation. She indicated she wants to see the SCRD “find creative solutions to this problem rather than just allowing users to suffer”.
She pointed to delays in ice installation at the Sechelt site as a recurring problem that needs to be resolved, in light of the fact the area has faced Stage 4 restrictions in five of the last eight years. “It makes no sense that year after year we leave the Sechelt arena empty of ice well into the ice users’ seasons,” she wrote.
In another letter to the board, parents of a local player registered to compete at the event, Jess and Michelle Smith wrote “to cancel a weekend of memories, team bonding and activities for more than 180 kids seems crazy to us. Taking away these opportunities for our youth is frustrating. These kids have suffered the last two years with Covid restrictions and cancellations”.
The Smith’s letter closed with “Let's ask the community to come together to assist us. Homeowners with private wells. We are sure there are enough homeowners in Sechelt to accommodate this request. We are happy to source them for you. Gibsons water supply is sufficient. Can we truck from there? We can help find trucking options….Please, help our community and youth by finding answers or at the bare minimum explaining why a creative solution can’t be used.”
The uncertainty around the tournament is compounding issues the SCMHA members face with ice on the Coast only available at the Gibsons and Area Recreation Centre over two months into the 2022-2023 season.
As part of its letter to the board, the association also pointed out that “during the Sunshine Coast’s ongoing water issues our Minor Hockey Association has fulfilled our league commitments by sacrificing practice times, negotiating home games, and exhausting family situations for travel. We have understood the need to conserve and have done our part.”