Renaming Midland sports centre on horizon to recoup costs

The Midland Plums and Cherries Inc. Sports Centre could be a possibility in the future, as the lucrative low-hanging fruit of renaming rights was given a thumbs up by the town.

User fee options for the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre were discussed at the recent meeting of Midland committee of the whole, with five rationales split for easier discussion and acceptance.

As explained by Mayor Bill Gordon during the meeting, the context behind each rationale came directly from the working group at the April 15 NSSRC funding sustainability workshop, with each of the items ranked from most to least important.

First on the list was an exploration on naming rights for the facility, with Gordon noting that the majority of groups in attendance of the meeting “felt that this could be the panacea” to avoid non-resident fees, but were reminded that it was the “low-hanging fruit” of a one-time opportunity and not an annual solution.

“It would mean the removal of the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre – which is near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts,” said Gordon, “but which doesn’t really align with the reality of the way it’s funded.”

“I certainly hope that it would end up being a local business with deep pockets that got the naming rights, and not Kleenex or something,” he added.

Coun. Bill Meridis asked what the length of term for the name change would be, but was given a “to be determined” response by Gordon as the discussion hadn’t progressed to that level from the evening’s simple approval.

The second item of a five-per cent, non-resident, non-North Simcoe fee (excluding Springwater Township) addition to all rentals was a concern for many on council, until Gordon and staff shared that rental fees at the facility were incredibly low and an increase would be negligible at worst and lucrative at best.

Gordon specifically pointed to teams from the Greater Toronto Area which practised at the facility due to its low rental cost, which he described as some of the cheapest in the province, adding it could probably be raised to 25 per cent and not impact those users.

Similarly, fee increases proposed to occur on September 1 were approved, including; A 10-per cent increase to summer floor rentals; a 20-per cent increase to the gymnasium; and a five-per cent increase for all other rentals.

Calculations by town staff concluded that $55,000 in annual revenue would be needed to offset charging Midland residents directly, whether they used the facility or not. The proposed fee increases were aimed to cover that $55,000 amount.

Coun. Jamie-Lee Ball expressed concern having received anecdotal talks with some residents who claimed they could barely afford rink time with current prices; however town staff countered the claim stating that with 20 people for a rental, the fee increase would be under a dollar for each player.

Gordon added: “We’re not making profit. We’re losing our shirts. $1.8 million per year to run the joint and we’re only trying to recover $55,000 from non-residents. By raising these things, this isn’t milking the cow to make a profitable year – we’re just trying to lose less money is all.”

One overlooked item caught during the working group was that while Tay Township and Tiny Township had expressed that they would not be attending the session during their individual council meetings, no formal request by Midland council asked either municipality to attend.

Gordon asked council members to agree in sending formal letters, asking the two neighbouring municipalities for contributions to avoid the need to implement non-resident user fees. He noted that no matter the response, the intent to include Tay and Tiny formally was of importance.

The final option on the matter involved a multi-year fee bylaw to be brought to the 2025 budget process, with NSSRC manager Dave Bressette explaining that it would be a return to normality for facility users.

“This was a past practice,” said Bressette, “and it was received very well by the user groups; that way they could plan ahead and not have to go through the uncertainty. I know a few years back, there was discussion of matching Barrie’s rates and 33 per cent increases… which caused pandemonium amongst the user groups.”

The motion regarding the five options was carried by the committee of the whole. Regular council is anticipated to meet next month to formally approve the decision.

The NSSRC user fees report, including an overview of the April 15 funding sustainability workshop, is available in the council agenda on the town of Midland website.

Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53 when available, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,