By Sue Tiffin
A request from the Highland Storm tournament director to reduce an increase in the cost of the rental of the facility sparked much discussion at Minden Hills council on March 10.
In the past, Craig Smith wrote the team paid $100 per day for the rental of the upstairs room during hockey tournaments, and said he believed a contract with that rate, and a possible four per cent annual increase, had been signed by the team’s past president. The 2022/2023 rate has increased to $257.50, according to Craig Belfry, community services director, or $360.50 for the upper warm viewing area, too.
Smith said the Storm association hosts up to 10 weekend tournaments a year and tries to book half in Minden, and half in Haliburton. Dysart et al’s auditorium rental during hockey or figure skating tournaments when four hours of ice have been rented costs a maximum of $103.
Smith said the team is soon booking next year’s tournaments and wrote “obviously we will have to move more of them to Haliburton” as the Minden upstairs rental rate was unaffordable.
“That is more than most teams pay to enter our tournament,” he wrote.
Smith said Storm tournaments bring eight teams to the area for the full weekend, with each team bringing an average of 15 players per team as well as bench staff, an equivalent of about 120 new families each weekend or 1,300 new families over the winter months.
Smith said many of those teams stay in local resorts and hotels, using restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores and area services.
“So many opportunities to support our local economy,” he wrote.
Belfry told council he agrees minor hockey offers an economic benefit to the county. He said though he had reached out to schedule a meeting about the situation, Storm representatives hadn’t responded to him yet. Belfry does not have a copy of the signed contract, but a fees and charges bylaw of 2021 sourced by Deputy Mayor Lisa Schell during the meeting states the $100 per day rate.
Schell said there was a big gap between the Dysart fees and Minden Hills fees.
“Granted that we maybe have a newer facility,” she said. “I just know that [at county council], we’ve tried very hard to have things be as equal as possible – especially when you have kids who live in Minden and kids who live in Haliburton, well, all over the county convening in these different arenas. And yet the parents are expected to pay a different price at one over the other.”
Schell said she was concerned the Storm would take all of their tournaments to Dysart.
“We’ve built this beautiful facility to accommodate the public,” she said. “I think we need to be a little more level with our neighbouring municipality that has similar infrastructure for Highland Storm. I think the jump is a little bit excessive.”
Belfry said Minden Hills had reached out to Dysart about how “our ice rates can move forward together,” but also said he had experience in the past of organizations using arenas in two municipalities and had “seen differentials.”
“It’s up to the organizations to budget for that too, right?,” he said. “So moving tournaments over to Haliburton, would only drive all the regular ice here. I’m not so sure there’s a huge effect to it but we haven’t seen that yet because we’re not into a full organization.”
Councillor Jean Neville, looking for a compromise, asked if the room could be booked to the Storm if it wasn’t in use by another organization, noting it wouldn’t require tables and chairs set up as it’s usually used for bags and space off the ice for the players.
“It’s a shame if the room is sitting there empty,” she said.
Schell said as far as she knew, the rate of the room during tournaments had always been $100. Acknowledging that it might not be a popular thing to say, she noted council had “made lots of concessions for the Huskies team to come to use our facility … I don’t see why we can’t just make the concession for the [Storm] as well.”
Councillor Pam Sayne said she agreed about making concessions for the Huskies, wanted to support the local team and said different tax increases happen in different municipalities as a result of different services.
“It’s really hard to say we’re going to charge the same,” she said. “I would really like to support our staff because we have a tremendous undertaking here with this overall arena, maintenance, staffing, and we’ve really got to pay attention to that. I am counting on our director to be able to manage that, and make the best recommendations to us to do that.”
Belfry told council the Storm is able to access Policy 91 financial assistance available to community groups and organizations within the municipality, but that the amount is capped at $750 for each group, which leaves the Storm with additional costs due to the number of tournaments booked.
Belfry said staff was bringing forward a report on Policy 91 and the grants that had gone out, with staff proposing to do a review of Policy 91 to see how it is structured, and how fees are waived. In a non-pandemic year, Belfry said close to $50,000 in fees are waived in a year.
“As council is aware, I’ve previously stated that the facility is at 13 per cent revenue recovery base, which is concerning,” said Belfry. “We have had concerns about fees coming in before and lack of fees.”
CAO Trisha McKibbin recommended a staff report come back responding to questions asked during the meeting, a conversation with the minor hockey team be had and that Policy 91 be looked at, at the same time.
A report from staff will be brought forward for review and consideration during 2022 budget deliberations on March 24.