Concerns about the financial impact of COVID-19 are plenteous, but the Town of Bay Roberts has actually seen a slight increase in revenue at the Bay Arena from September until now compared to the same time period last year.
Director of Recreation Ian Flynn, who was in council chambers January 26 to give a recreation update, said increased usage of the stadium by minor hockey teams over the Christmas season and bubble skate rentals helped boost revenues. A stabilizing (and slight increase) of ice rental fees also helped nudge up revenue.
“Last year we looked at all the user rental rates we had, and we had so many different user rental rates,” said Flynn. “One group was getting it for $100, another group was getting it for $150, another group was getting it for $180. So, how was it fair that Group A was getting it for this price, and Group B was getting it for another price? So, we drew a line in the sand, and said here are your rates, based on peak rates, minor hockey rates, and daytime rates.”
Management has also worked out an understanding with the province which cuts the mandatory cleaning time between sessions in half, allowing for more available ice time.
“We’ve had to work closely with all user groups and we’ve actually applied to Public Health, because the guidelines stated that there had to be 30 minutes between ice rink times,” said Flynn. “And, talking to other arenas in the province, there were arenas that were actually swallowing that cost at a cost of $8,000 to $10,000 a week in lost revenue due to the half hour breaks. Other stadiums were putting the cost back on the users, so that would increase the cost for minor programs, recreation, and that kind of thing. So, we developed a front door-back door system so that no groups actually cross over. That allowed our staff to clean and sanitize all the benches, dressing rooms, and stands in between each group… We were one of the first communities in the province to be approved for the 15 minute window.”
The pandemic has affected stadium operations in by necessitating robust cleaning protocols.
“Due to cleaning protocols and the collective agreement, two staff are always required for evenings and weekends,” said Flynn. “There are currently five staff working no less than 38 hour per week, and although we’ll fight through this season, I think we’re going to need to look at the possibility of bringing on one or two part time staff in the fall.”
In light of this, there will be a review of the program schedule, and, in order to reduce staff hours during the day time, there may be a reduction of day-time programming such as adult and parent-and-tot skating, he said.
The announcement this past week from the St. John’s Junior Hockey League (SJJHL) that Junior teams, including the CBN Junior Stars, will be resuming play, will likely be another boost of revenue for the arena. But, the announcement comes with challenges of another kind.
Flynn said that 100 fans will be admitted to attend junior games; about double the number of parents who are allowed to attend minor hockey games. In minor hockey, each child is permitted two spectators.
“We are looking to expand that number up to four people per child, which would still keep us within the public health guidelines,” said Flynn. “I think it would be great if we could give nans and pops an opportunity to go up and watch their grandkids play, so that’s something we’re exploring and looking at.”
Flynn said stadium operators are coming together to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
“All six of us got together and set a basic set of rules for all six stadiums, so you’re not going to the Bay Arena, where your allowed ‘X’ number of people, and then your going to Clareville where your allowed a different number of people,” said Flynn.
The SJJHL has not, as of publication, released a game schedule.
Finally, Flynn noted the arena’s hydro bill is down as much as $5,000, which he attributed to the closure of the canteen and limited use of the warming room.
The Town has also met with engineers and Municipal Affairs regarding new dehumidifiers it has purchased with provincial funding. Construction to install them is scheduled to start in April and finish in mid June. Installation of heat pumps in the dressing rooms was also delayed, but Flynn said they should be installed in the coming week.
Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News