Town of Smithers increasing arena user fees by 10 per cent

Increase will happen next season, affecting youth and adult users

Town of Smithers council listened to arena ice users, deciding this afternoon to raise arena rates by only 10 per cent next season.

Last Wednesday, councillors and town staff hosted a meeting with ice user groups who voiced their concerns over the proposed 20 per cent youth rate and 30 per cent adult rate increase for the 2014-2015 season.

The increase is needed to pay for the operating costs of Smithers’ second sheet of ice. The new arena is expected to be complete by the end of September.

At a finance committee meeting earlier today it was decided to raise arena user rates 10 per cent across the board and use some of the $100,000 operating reserve to make up the difference.

“I think the win-win is to hit the happy medium we’re all after,” Smithers Minor Hockey Association president Dave Turko said at the Feb. 19 meeting. “Make it affordable. Keep as many kids playing as possible. For minor hockey, we think a 10 per cent increase is reasonable.”

That sentiment was shared by user groups around the table at the meeting.

Turko said SMHA calculated the organization could use about 17 per cent more ice time and would hopefully be able to host more tournaments. The increased ice time and the higher user fees would have a definite impact on members, he said, and they would not be able to afford more ice time if rates went up by 20 per cent.

“If you charge us more, we use less ice or you charge us less and we use more ice.”

Additionally, town ratepayers will not see an increase next year to fund the arena, said Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach.

The Town of Smithers has estimated the new arena’s annual operating costs to be between $167,000 and $192,000 per year.

An earlier motion to look into a three-tiered arena pay scale was abandoned at the meeting due to the cost of setting up and administering such a system.

Once the Town of Smithers sees what it actually costs to run the new arena for one full season, there is a chance costs may change, Bachrach said.

“There might have to be fee adjustments in the future,” he said. “And I think the ice users recognize that.”