Maple Ridge is kicking in another $100,000 this year to help subsidize ice time costs for minor sports, then will double that amount in following years.
Council decided that at its Tuesday workshop as it tries to bring the amount of subsized ice time closer to that in other cities.
According to a staff report that compares the amount of subsidized ice time in the Metro Vancouver region, Maple Ridge provides six minutes a week, per player, of subsidized ice time.
But the regional average that includes cities such as Burnaby, Coquitlam, Abbotsford and Port Coquitlam, is nine minutes per week, per player.
Maple Ridge buys its time from RG Properties which owns the Planet Ice. The city then sells that ice time back to minor sports such as hockey, public skating, figure skating, ringette and speed skating, at reduced rates.
Councillors wanted to help but noted the money won’t provide any more ice time, but will just reduce ice costs. A staff report notes that the extra $200,000 per year could add up to a tax increase of .3 per cent, although other sources of that money could be used.
“If we’re going to increase the subsidy, then we’re still not achieving the main goal of the conversation which is, how do we get more ice time?” asked Coun. Corisa Bell.
Coun. Bob Masse favoured delaying the issue until the final report on the city’s plan for new rec facilities which is expected soon.
“They made it very clear that this won’t make it so any more kids can play hockey,” Masse said.
A majority on council though favoured increasing the subsidy.
The association said then that its ice costs are higher at $620,000 per year, than other minor hockey associations. That works out to total average annual hockey fees of about $1,000 a year, Derek Gullmes with minor hockey told council.
The association also faces a chronic shortage of ice time, which ends up in early practice times for teams and also limits the number of kids who can play hockey. He pointed out that there are no city-owned rinks in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows.
Minor hockey also pointed out in March that Mission, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody have only city-owned rinks while, only 23 per cent of the rinks in Burnaby are city owned, with the rest under private ownership.
The City of Maple Ridge pays RG about $665,000 a year for the ice as part of a 30-year agreement signed in 1996, under which RG Properties built the two hockey arenas and curling rink at Planet Ice.
The city then sells that ice time back to minor sports at a reduced rate. But that only provides part of the ice time needed by minor hockey, requiring it to buy private ice time at non-subsidized rates.
In the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association, in 2016-17, it costs $505 a year for players under seven and $890 a year for midgets (Grades 10-12).
At the midget and bantam rep levels, with tryout fees included, it cost $1,060 a year. That does not include team fees, which help pay for tournaments. Teams generally enter two to three tournaments a year, costing hundreds more dollars each per player.
The registration fee for players under seven in the Coquitlam Minor Hockey Association is $460, and $810 a year for midget.
In the Abbotsford Minor Hockey Association, it costs $345 a year for a six year old to play, with yearly fees maxing out at $710 a year at the midget level.
In Langley, the basic fees are $500 for under seven, and $705 a year for midget.