Editorial: Make ice not war

SCRD directors took a tentative and carefully measured first step last week toward hopefully solving a problem that has vexed at least three previous boards – providing adequate ice time to arena user groups.

As Sophie Woodrooffe reports on page 15, directors voted to guarantee ice in one of the SCRD’s two facilities until April 30, pending a more far-reaching decision later this month.

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The April allocation was fiscally a safe bet, since weekly revenues from requested ice bookings will come to at least $7,136, according to Ian Hall, general manager of planning and community development. While estimated variable operating costs will be somewhat higher, “additional unconfirmed bookings have been proposed which, if confirmed, could significantly reduce or eliminate this gap,” Mr. Hall said in his report to the committee.

The provision of ice through April still puts the Sunshine Coast behind Powell River and Squamish, where ice is available till the end of May, but as a temporary stop-gap it’s a move in the right direction.

More than 500 youths fill the growing ranks of the Sunshine Coast Skating Club and Sunshine Coast Minor Hockey Association, according to the SCSC. Figure skating has no off season, so young athletes have been forced to miss school and travel by ferry to find practice ice, when their home community boasts two arenas. Five years ago, a club official told a different set of SCRD directors, “The problem is the Sunshine Coast has less ice time with two arenas than we had with one.”

Unfortunately, their need for at least 10 months of ice at one facility is in direct conflict with the demand by dry floor users to have both facilities available from April through the summer for lacrosse, pickleball, roller derby and special events. While the dry floor users make some strong arguments in their favour, the fact is that the utilization rate of available hours by ice users at both facilities is much higher, as reflected in part by the enormous discrepancy in revenue. In the 2018 fiscal year, ice bookings brought in $346,818 compared to $15,296 from dry floor bookings. In his report, Mr. Hall notes that “at least one-third of the dry floor revenue can be retained or recreated through new programming by offering a single facility, through creative scheduling and through delivery of some programs at SD46 facilities.”

Balancing the competing interests will be an unenviable task, but the case for more ice time is solid and action is long overdue. The challenge will be to seriously address that need while causing minimum disruption to dry floor users.

As to the groups themselves, there has been far too much accusatory and inflammatory rhetoric flying around. This is supposed to be about fitness, sports excellence, healthy activity, fair play. Instead it’s degraded into a nasty turf war.

Time to remember that the kids are watching.


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