Chatham-Kent Council approved the recommendation in the consent agenda of its July 10 meeting from the Parks and Recreation department to extend the trial period for reduced hourly ice rates at municipal arenas into the 2024-2027 multi-year budget.

It was recommended that the trial period be extended with the objective of stabilizing current arena usage back to pre-pandemic levels and remaining competitive with neighbouring jurisdictions.

The estimated annual revenue loss from extending the reduction of ice rates is $267,586.

Council first approved a two-year trial period at its Aug. 12, 2019, meeting to reduce the hourly prime ice rental rate at Chatham-Kent arenas from $204.28 to $173.00 and the hourly minor and non-prime rate from $163.28 to $152.00.

This trial period also extended the $100 per hour discounted rate for last-minute bookings throughout the season, which was previously only available during the holidays.

On May 31, 2021, Council extended the trial period until the end of the 2022-23 season.

Reduced rates plus inflation were approved for the 2023-24 season in the 2023 Budget.

Ice time totals from 2020-21 and ‘21-22 seasons, which were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, were not considered when comparing usage with ‘19-20 and ‘22-23 seasons.

The objective of the trial period was to improve the financial viability of Chatham-Kent’s arenas through an increase in bookings after user groups indicated that reducing ice rates to be competitive with neighbouring municipalities could attract bookings from these jurisdictions and increase local registration.

Minor hockey associations advised that reduced ice rates would enable them to direct savings towards other rising costs (referee fees, travel, etc.), and reduce their fundraising targets and registration fees paid by their members.

Several seasonal ice user groups informed the administration that their registrations in 2022-23 were still affected by the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and that an extension of the trial was necessary to determine its impact properly.

Administration believes reduced rates are unlikely to result in a significant gain in rental bookings as originally projected but agrees with seasonal groups that a return to higher rates may negatively impact usage and contribute to an accelerated decline in usage.

By Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 17, 2023 at 13:19

This item reprinted with permission from   The Independent News   Ridgetown, Ontario
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