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Wellesley scales back hours at its arenas to cut costs

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The Township of Wellesley will be closing its arenas down on certain statutory holidays, councillors decided at a meeting Tuesday evening, and scaling back the hours of operation at its facilities on Mondays and Tuesdays each week.

The new schedule, attributed to low demand and difficulty staffing over the holidays, will see the St. Clements and Wellesley arenas delay opening their doors as a cost-cutting measure.

“The Mondays and Tuesdays until 3 p.m., that is largely a financial [concern],” said township chief administrative officer Rik Louwagie. “Paying a full-time or part-time staff member to be there for a full day where I think for the past two years we’ve only had one rental combined for the two arenas.”

The arenas will also be kept closed to skaters on six statutory holidays over the year: Thanksgiving Sunday, Christmas and Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, Good Friday and Easter Monday.

“In 2018-19 season, Thanksgiving Sunday we had no rentals in either arena. On Christmas Eve, we had no rentals past 12 p.m. On Christmas Day we had no rentals,” noted township director of recreation Danny Roth in response to a question from council.

There were some exclusions, however.

“I think I’d be a little bit reluctant to close the opportunity to skate on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day and Family Day,” said Mayor Joe Nowak. “Those are days that I would think somebody may want to sponsor a free skate. It just seems to me if we do this, we’re closing that completely and then there’s no options.”

Instead, councillors opted to increase the rates on those three holidays from $119 to the township’s prime rental rates of $191, which is typically charged for rentals during peak demand periods. Rentals on Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and Family Day would also be required for a minimum of two hours.

Ultimately, however, the availability of the rink on the holidays would depend on the availability of staff to cover those days. Roth noted the difficulty in finding staff to cover holiday shifts, a point which Coun. Peter van der Maas took issue with.

“I think I’m going to be acting like a Grinch here for a minute,” said van der Maas. “If we as a township offer a service, we can expect our employees to staff that service.

“I can’t see us having to open a township facility based on the schedules of our employees … I don’t want to seem crass about it, but that the way it seems to be going the discussion.”

With the ice in the arenas removed, the schedule changes won’t be felt until the start of the season later this year. However, that will come one month later than usual for the township, as councillors also approved a one-month delay to putting the ice in at St. Clements.

“In 2018 the total ice revenue for August ice in St. Clements was $3,481.73. The hydro bill for August 2018 was $7,341.98,” noted Roth in his report to council. The first day of ice at the St. Clements arena will be September 9, 2019, while the Wellesley arena won’t see any action until after the Apple Butter and Cheese Festival on September 28.

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