Ice user groups urged Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors to reconsider their July 30 decision not to install ice at the Sunshine Coast Arena this year, which they say contravenes the SCRD’s ice allocation policy.
At a Sept. 10 planning committee meeting, representatives from the Sunshine Coast Skating Club (SCSC) and the Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey Association (SCMHA) asked directors to reverse their earlier decision and instead install ice by Sept. 28.
Through a freedom of information request the groups said they found that between 2015 and 2017, revenue from ice rentals far surpassed dry floor rentals, in some cases by 20 times. In 2017, for example, total dry floor revenue totalled $44,434 versus $960,472 in revenue from ice.
SCSC’s Andrea Watson said they have requested expenses but so far haven’t received any. “Obviously having those costs would give a much richer picture than what we have,” she said, adding while there are additional costs to run an ice plant, “it’s hard to fathom whether this additional cost of energy would be up to 20 times beyond what it would be for a dry floor.”
Further, because membership and ice booking has increased since 2017, the groups are “confident” revenue from ice bookings would be even higher from 2018 to present.
An ice allocation meeting on Aug. 20 also showed that “user demand for ice cannot be resolved with only one arena,” said Watson. They also noted the Public Recreation Master Plan stipulated a second sheet of ice “was built to address the distance between communities and defines accessibility as less than a 30-minute drive.”
The ice user groups have been appealing for more ice time after COVID-19 health protocols forced the early closures of arenas in March. Over the summer, directors have been wrestling with decisions for reopening facilities in the face of a recreation budget deficit estimated at about $1 million.
Staff had recommended on July 23 that the Sunshine Coast Arena be opened in the fall, “with ice provided subject to ice demand,” but directors decided at a July 30 board meeting to reopen the arena for dry floor use only from September to December 2020. The Gibsons arena opened with an ice surface on Sept. 8.
Following the user groups’ presentation at the Sept. 10 planning committee meeting, Roberts Creek director Andreas Tize asked staff to confirm whether revenue for the recreation budget would increase if ice was installed at both arenas. He also explained his rationale for supporting the July 30 motion. “Dry floor users also lost their space in the summertime,” including at school gyms, he said. “For me it’s more of an equity thing.”
Community development manager Ian Hall said both revenues and costs would be higher if ice was installed.
Elphinstone director Donna McMahon noted revenue from users does not cover the majority of recreation costs, before repeating past concerns that “we do not see the financials for the recreation facilities broken out individually. I would really like to see that in our budget because we’ve been making decisions based on numbers that are difficult to understand.”
Directors did not make any recommendations or motions following the ice user groups’ appearance.
In a follow-up letter to the board, the clubs expressed frustration at what they say is an ice allocation process that is neither “equitable or transparent,” and said they used the delegation to focus on financials because that’s what directors had identified as a concern when the user groups requested August ice at a presentation at committee in July.
“It appears now that the decision made on July 30 was not financial either and the goalposts have moved and the issue now is equity,” read the letter.
“Youth did not have a training ground and spent months travelling to Coquitlam, Abbotsford, and Victoria. It would have been equitable to put ice in at the beginning of August as we requested.”