Westport is closing its arena for the rest of the season, effective immediately.
The Westport Community Arena didn't open this winter season until October. It closed again on Dec. 7 when the village declared a state of emergency in response to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the community.
"The arena never had the opportunity to re-open, as the province's lockdown orders then came into effect," said Anne-Marie Koiner, village treasurer.
At the same time, demand for ice rentals is dropping off as leagues assess what remains of the season.
"We just got confirmation from Leeds Minor Hockey, that they're cancelling the rest of the season," Peter Evans, manager of public works, told council.
The cancellations represent a drastic drop in demand, and closing the arena now and decommissioning the ice could save the village about $25,000 this season compared to a normal season.
The village usually sees a financial loss of $80,000 between September and March, according to Koiner, but as Mayor Robin Jones points out, the arena's value goes beyond the dollar figure.
"The arena is such an important part of the village. So yes, we normally don't break even on the finances - but there is nothing 'lost' about our arena," said Jones.
The Westport Community Arena is the recreational hub not just for the village of Westport, but for the surrounding area, providing a range of services and recreation for the larger community.
The early shutdown and ice decommissioning mean the village will be out $55,000, this season because even while the facility is shuttered it has to be maintained and heated through the balance of the season.
The decision to close the arena at this time was not an easy one, and its impact is going to be felt.
"Businesses rely on the moms and dads who bring their hockey player children to the arena for tournaments and slip away to shop. In particular, our grocery store owner will confirm the importance of the arena during the slower months of January-March," said Jones.
This year has been anything but normal and with lockdown expected to last until mid-February at best, and numerous restrictions expected to continue indefinitely, keeping the arena open for the balance of the season doesn’t make sense in light of the pandemic, officials said.
Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times