Massive ice fee increase under scrutiny

The recreation commission will reconvene this week to create a new ice fees structure, the council decided at its Aug. 22 meeting.

The recreation commission with meet this week to create a new ice fees structure.

The recreation commission will reconvene this week to create a new ice fees structure, the council decided at its Aug. 22 meeting.

The decision comes after several of the ice user groups came to council at the committee of the whole meeting to discuss what they said are upwardof 60 per cent increase in fees.

The adult recreational hockey league addressed council, telling them that with ice costs going from $134 last season to up to $220 for prime time this season, it means the league will have to make some changes.

“Our choices as a league is either we go down to a 30 game season from our 50 game season or we charge everyone $800 or $900 from our current $500 a year. I think at $900, we will lose a lot of people who want to play,” Jeff Mayer told council.

It’s not as though the concerns are isolated to one organization. At the meeting, representatives from women’s hockey, the adult hockey league and the figure skating club were all present.

Council members went back and forth at the meeting, discussing the issue. Most of them sympathized with the groups, and some of them said they didn’t realize the increase would be so high for prime ice time.

The issue seemed to be about what the civic centre defines as prime versus non-prime ice time. The definition of ice time is new for this season, part of the new fee rollout that came into effect July 1. Previously, all ice time cost the same rate.

This season, prime ice time is from 4 p.m. until midnight during the week and from 8 a.m. until midnight on the weekends. Coun. Barry Cunningham pointed out that the 10:45  p.m. until midnight slot shouldn’t be considered prime ice time. The Prince Rupert Oldtimers Hockey League (PROHL) has already dropped two of the 10:45 ice times, because it’s too late for them, according to its website.

Council asked the recreation commission to work quickly, so as to have a decision before the city bills various groups at the end of September. The commission wasted no time, and have scheduled a meeting for Aug. 30. Paul Cox, the PROHL organizer, said he’s happy about council’s decision.

“I think that’s great, especially when it is such a large increase. It should be broken down over a few years at least,” Cox said.

As it currently stands, Cox said the league would have to either scale back its ice time or raise the rates for its members, just like the adult hockey league. He says he’s looking forward to the rec commission meeting so he can have a better understanding of why a prime and non-prime charging system was implemented after all these years.

Kate Toye, executive vice president of the figure skating club, said she feels council heard the concerns raised.

“I do believe that what came out of the council meeting was that an increase has to happen, but maybe a more gradual increase over the years instead of one big jump. It’s like they’re trying to make up for a decade in a year,” she said.

“I would like to see them come to something that is fair across the board. I would like to see them come to a decision that sees the civic centre being used. I’m a big believer that everybody should get to play. If people can’t afford to skate, it’s not a win-win situation. If you put a fee increase, you’re just making a larger divide on who gets to use a public facility.”

The point of the issue going back to the recreation commission is for the fee structure to be reworked, whether that is raising the price incrementally year-by-year or some other way. The hope is to have the issue resolved by the next council meeting on Sept. 12.