While the Coast’s Junior Hockey Society gathered more than 1,300 public signatures in one day supporting a bid to establish a local Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL) team, Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) Area D director Andreas Tize needs “hundreds” of answers to consider board involvement.
At its June 9 meeting the board referred the society’s business proposal to staff. Sechelt area rep Darnelda Sieger’s motion requested a report on opportunities that could facilitate “the direction the group is moving” come to the committee of the whole on June 23.
The newly forming society’s goal is to reach an agreement in principle with the SCRD for use of the Gibsons and Area Community Centre (GACC) as home for a new franchise. With that in place, work would then be focused on a public private partnership (P3 agreement) among local governments and team ownership. The group would like to have that in place so that the puck can drop for the new team’s first home game in Sept. 2023.
Society representatives Brenda Rowe, Stuart Frizzell and Rick Hopper spent about an hour presenting their pitch to bring a team to Gibsons at the SCRD committee of the whole meeting, also held on June 9.
Some progress was made by the hockey group on that date. It learned a freedom of information request was needed to access the as-built plans for the GACC. They need those to look at potential renovations to ice facilities needed to support higher level hockey competition at that site. Corporate officer Sherry Reid explained at the meeting, that as plans are copyrighted, a written request is needed to be able to release them.
Gibsons area director and Mayor Bill Beamish also told the group that it needs to book an appearance in front of Town council to provide information and seek the support of that group. The GACC is located on land owned by the Town. Any potential facility expansion would require a public notification process.
The clock is ticking for the society, which is aiming to make a presentation on a new team application to the league on June 25.
In reaction to that timeline, Area B director Lori Pratt commented “eek!”. She noted that requesting the report in two weeks was “a significant change to the workplan” for staff.
Costs and other considerations
The newly forming society believes it stands a good chance of securing the one expansion spot that the PJHL, which currently has 13 franchises, plans to open at its June meeting. Hopper told the elected reps that at this point, the Coast is the only location slated to present a new team proposal as a delegation at that meeting. In conversations with league officials, Hopper said he was told the Coast would be “a good fit” for a new team. PJHL currently has franchises in Abbotsford, Aldergrove, Chilliwack, Delta, Burnaby, Langley, Mission, North Vancouver, Port Moody, Richmond, Ridge Meadows, Surrey and White Rock.
Along with securing an agreement with local government, establishing a team on the Coast will require financial investment in the $500,000 to $750,000 range from the private sector. Hopper, who was a key player in bringing a junior hockey franchise to Powell River, stated that 13 years ago, that team was started with about $23,000.
During committee discussions issues like housing for players and accommodations for visiting teams were raised. Frizzell and Rowe are both Coast parents with children that moved on to play junior hockey. They said that they were confident that billeting for members of any Coast-based team could be located. In addition, having a franchise in Gibsons would provide an option for local youth to compete at the junior level without moving away from home.
Hopper said that teams in the PJHL currently do not have to travel overnight for league play. He suggested that to make playing a Coast-based team more convenient, back-to-back games could be scheduled. That would require the visitors to spend one night away from their homes, and that those events would require about 12 rooms in a commercial facility near the GACC.
Rowe is also a member of Sechelt council and is aware of the speed at which local government decisions progress.
“We feel your pain around this timeline, we would like it to be different as well, but we do not have control over it,” she said. She committed the group to “making themselves available” to liaise with SCRD staff and bring details to the board as needed.