Arena user fees and rental rates increase

The District of Houston will be raising ice-time fees at the arena over the next few years.

The District of Houston will be raising ice-time fees at the arena over the next few years.

Talking to council at the meeting last week Tuesday, Leisure Services Director Ryan Coltura said the District of Houston has been charging 57% less for ice rentals than neighbouring communities and communities of similar size.

Youth non-prime time is $37.00 in Houston, $42.00 in Burns Lake and $71.87 in Smithers, and is $25.39 cheaper than the average, and the $79.50 adult non-prime time fee in Houston is $52.84 cheaper than other communities.

At the council meeting last Tuesday, Coltura said Leisure Services has been mandated by council to recover a minimum of 30% of their operating costs through user-fees and rentals, with the difference made up by taxation support.

The projected 2013 cost recovery is 25% for the Houston Leisure Facility, similar to the average 25 to 30% cost recovery for most communities.

But Coltura says those same communities average 50 to 70% cost recovery for their arenas, while the Claude Perish Memorial Arena in Houston is projected to recover only 24% of their operating costs.

“If we’re that much lower than the surrounding communities, it’s time that we start looking at raising our rates for ice time,” said Mayor Bill Holmberg.

Deputy Mayor Shane Brienen agreed.

“Most user groups are aware right now that the price to pay for minor hockey in this town is significantly lower than a lot of the neighbouring communities, so they realize that they’re getting a break,” he said.

Coltura says council could look into a five year plan to increase fees and try to reach the mandated 30% cost recovery.

“Even a 10% increase in user group fees is only going to bring us up to a 26.5% [cost recovery],” said Coltura.

He added that council could also consider cutting back the hours the arena is open and with the amount the arena is used, they may not need to open until 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Council directed Coltura to tell user groups that a fee increase is coming, likely a 5% increase every year for the next five years.

He will return to council in September with a proposal.

Coltura met with the user groups Wednesday and showed them the situation council is facing and the plans for the arena fees.

“They were all very understanding… we’re working with the user groups to try and come up with a long term operating plan for the arena,” Coltura said.

Figure Skating Club President Rhonda Ball said she understands the reasons for the increase, but she isn’t sure at this point how it will impact their budget and rates.

“It’s an executive decision,” she said.

Blaine Silbernagel, President of the Houston Minor Hockey Association, said the increase will have a significant impact on their budget.

“While we have not worked out the exact details, the executive will be working hard to understand what this increase in user fees means for us, and working hard to minimize the impact on our members so that minor hockey can be kept affordable for families in Houston,” he said.

Silbernagel says that having seen the situation facing Houston council, it is clear that Houston does need to increase fees, “but it is a significant and sharp increase that will affect all users of the arena.”

He says it was apparent that arena users have been getting a good deal on ice, but he hopes that with the significant fee increase, they will also see upgrades on the arena.