Minor sports groups have won a reprieve from higher rates at the Dan Snyder Arena, as councillors this week came up with alternative funding methods in approving the 2010 budget.
Rather than charge everyone a premium to use the larger arena in the Woolwich Memorial Centre, the township will exempt minor sports teams from paying the additional $18 an hour. The decision means an $8,500 hit to this year’s budget.
Prime time ice rental rates at all three arenas – the Snyder pad, the Jim McLeod Arena and the Woolwich Township Arena in St. Jacobs. – will rise 3.5 per cent to $181.41 an hour from $175.24. An additional premium will take the cost of the Snyder arena ice to $199.11 for all other users, including the Elmira Sugar Kings Junior B hockey club.
The compromise came following last week’s public backlash against the idea of two-tiered rates at the arena. Groups such as the Woolwich Minor Hockey Association said the premium pricing would strain their finances and force registration fees to rise dramatically.
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Representatives of user groups who came out in force last week left disappointed when councillors wouldn’t even consider reopening a discussion about rates and charges, the result of a procedural vote that failed to get the required support.
Tuesday night, however, as councillors debated final approval of the 2010 budget, Coun. Ruby Weber’s assertion there would be no budget vote without a discussion of the fees won the backing of colleagues Sandy Shantz and Mark Bauman.
Both Weber and Shantz pushed staff to justify the higher rates, especially the tiered pricing, by showing the increases were tied to actual cost. Weber, for instance, suggested high demand for ice time might simply lead to fee hikes on that part of the operation given that there isn’t enough demand for pool time to push up prices.
Shantz noted that if rates are being raised on a cost-recovery basis, then the township has to have a cost break-down to see which costs are being passed on to ice users.
“We have to make sure we’re not charging for parts that aren’t being used.”
Weber also echoed the concerns expressed by user groups at the Feb. 2 meeting, noting that the minor sports teams don’t benefit from playing at the Dan Snyder Arena rather than either of the other two, but would be forced to pay more.
“Is there added value for the user?” Weber asked of the higher cost at the Dan Snyder Arena.
Coming prepared to address financial options in the absence of tiered pricing, director of finance Richard Petherick suggested the exemption for minor sports groups could be made up elsewhere in the budget, including an increase in revenues from the sale of rink-board advertising.
With new ice rental fees to take effect in the fall, the exemption would reduce planned revenues by $8,500 from September through the end of December 2010, he said.