Gananoque council wants to extend arena season

·3 min read

The Town of Gananoque is holding out hope for hockey in spite of the lockdown.

Despite staff's recommendation to take the ice out now, council members are proposing extending the season.

"As the provincial order was extended to February 19, 2021 leaving just five weeks of the season remaining, staff recommend that the ice be taken out starting February 3, 2021,” said Kari Lambe, manager of community services, in a report to council presented at the Committee of the Whole on Feb. 2.

However council members were less than keen to close the arena immediately and instead opted to defer any decision for two weeks to the next scheduled meeting when provincial orders will be clearer.

"I'm of the opinion that we should keep it open; if by our next meeting the government has decided to extent lockdown then we can close it if we need to," said Coun. Adrian Haird.

It is not clear exactly what it's costing the town to keep the arena open. Staffers have, according to Lambe, done all they can to reduce costs at the facility; minimizing ice maintenance, keeping lights off and adjusting temperature.

Staff schedules have been adjusted and overtime and shift premiums that would normally be incurred at this time have been eliminated.

"I wish I had an easy answer as to what it's costing us," said Lambe. "But we've never been in a position where we've been shut down this long with the ice in."

It's not yet clear just how much the town will save through the reductions in hydro, heat and water; however lost revenues are a lot clearer.

"We're losing on average $50,000 in revenue every 40 days," said Lambe.

In spite of the revenue loss, council members proposed extending the season rather than closing the arena prematurely.

"So if our normal season is supposed to end in April, maybe we can look at extending it to get more revenue and more ice time," said Haird.

According to staff, extending the season presents a new set of challenges on town resources.

"We don't have a facilities team that's available all year round and a separate parks team," said Lambe. "Our facilities team transitions to parks, so by April they’re getting ready for the parks season."

According to Lambe staff would need to decide how many additional temporary workers would need to be hired to keep the arena open past the regular season.

Another consideration will be the planned upgrades to the arena, and whether extending the season will have an impact on work that has already been awarded. Lambe said she would check with the contractor to determine if extending the season will have an impact on the planned upgrades to the ice plant, before the Feb. 16 meeting.

"I'd be in favour of extending the season by a couple of weeks into April. It's not all about saving money, it's also about mental health and children being able to enjoy some ice time with their peers," said Coun. Mike Kench.

Council members unanimously voted to defer the decision until Feb. 16, and according to Lambe the delay will not have any impact on current arena operations.

Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times