Published June 15, 2016
BY JENNIFER THURBIDE
It has been about a month since the English River Miners (ERM) announced their intent to move the team to the Cochenour Arena and Council had its first public discussion on the move earlier this week. While, reviewing a staff recommendation, Councillors were told the local government is looking to strike a level of balance and fairness for all user groups “while attempting to create an economically viable location for the ERM.”
As a taxpayer I must insist that the Municipality add to this sentiment and ensure that this move is “economically viable” for us first.
As an example when presenting their requirements for relocation, the ERM indicated they would require a private dressing room and a media centre for game broadcasts – all of which the organization will pay for. However, there has yet to be discussion on what the cost of the project will actually be, whether the ERM has a budget for the renovations, as well as who is going to pay for maintenance once the construction is completed. Further maintenance needs to the building that is expected to come from skates and hockey sticks has also not been discussed.
Much is being made over the additional revenue that is going to be generated by the team playing and practicing here but it is important to note that a bulk of the $8,000 that is expected to come from the 27 home games is not new revenue as there is rarely an ice block in prime time that goes unused.
We should also be concerned with the cost of keeping the facility open in the “off-season”. The Municipality freely admits there is no financial precedence for opening in August (which won’ t be this season but is proposed for future seasons) and shutting down at the end of April (depending on playoff schedules). How much this is going to cost taxpayers is wide open. Ice users who have petitioned to either open early or stay open late in previous years have been told there is a steep cost to this that cannot be recouped with just user fees alone. Does this mean that we can expect a fee increase on the facility to pay for this schedule?
The tone of this week’s meeting seemed to be optimistic that this is something that is going to benefit the Municipality financially; however, there are still too many questions to throw full-seated support behind this proposal.
On a related note after the NSN ran the story on the relocation we received criticism for not identifying ERM President Jason Vinet as Red Lake Mayor Phil Vinet’s son. That is a fair point and if space was unlimited this may be something that would have made it in. But Mayor Vinet is not the only one at the table with relatives that have a vested interest in how the facility is used.
Taking a roll call – Councillor Middleton and his family are ERM mega fans, Councillor Mota has daughters that are long-time figure skaters. Councillor Goodwillie’s grandchildren are in both Minor Hockey and Skate Canada programming. Councillor Baron’s grandchildren are also in skating programs and she is an open advocate for ice sports in the area.
And in the interest of full disclosure – for the past decade I have been a Skate Canada coach and I currently own my own skating school.