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Saturday , 24 October 2020

CLMH hoping City backstops North Arena fearing registrations could be capped

Cold Lake Minor Hockey is hoping they won’t have to cap registrations this year if City doesn’t backstop North Arena as a venue to host practice and games for the upcoming hockey season.

The costs to run the rink where cut when Cold Lake passed its budget as the City tried to shave off over $200,000 amidst financial woes.

The City is exploring long-term options to make the North Arena sustainable, but if it doesn’t operate, CLMH is losing a surface that hosted 42 per cent of their practice, said vice-president Lawren Wowk, a situation that arose two years ago.

They presented in front of city council last month with a similar pitch this time around.

“I think what has to happen is the City has to bite the bullet on the North Arena,” said Wowk.

“All of the ice time that the City gave to us we completely maximized over at the Energy Centre. And then we were still 42 per cent short, which is why the contract between the City and Cold Lake Minor Hockey was necessary.

“The combined ice time between both ice sheets in the Energy Centre don’t even tabulate up to the amount of ice time we had at the North for practice ice,” he said.

While CLMH shares both rinks with junior hockey teams and other user groups at the Energy Centre, access to the Col J.J. Parr Sport Centre is not so easy.

Wowk said that CLMH paid $220,000 in ice fees last year fulfilling with their deal with 22-25 hours of ice time a week.

He understands the financial pressures the City is under, but feels supporting needs to be done to help the largest user group in Cold Lake and M.D. of Bonnyville play the sport they love.

“When we entered into the contract, it was never designed to run neutral. I don’t know any public facilities that makes money,” said Wowk.

“I don’t think the City entered into this contract with us two years ago, thinking that, this was going to be a self-sufficient opportunity.

“I can’t imagine–and it’s happened to other associations, just not ours–capping registration and saying this is the number of teams we can have.

“That’s simply because we are supposed to provide to our membership on the minimum development model and we’re meeting that with the North ice surface. That was one of the major reasons I think the City agreed two years ago was they recognize it was an absolute need.”

Mayor Craig Copeland said two weeks ago that the issue will come up in future meetings to scope out a long-term solution.

He is sympathetic to CLMH’s issue.

“If we were to operate this season, okay, what’s the cost? But also what is it going to take to keep that arena going for the next 5-10 years?” said Copeland.

“We definitely recognize that it’s very hard for minor hockey to get ice time on the base [Col J.J. Parr Sport Centre], the two rinks over there. Basically, you’re going to go down to two city rinks for a population of 15,000 and then throw in the M.D. kids that come to Cold Lake for minor hockey.

“Ice time will be scrunched up. And if we do go down to two rinks at the Imperial Place, all the user groups that utilize the ice, the arena, will be affected. It just won’t be minor hockey.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connect Media. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.