The Inuvik Minor Hockey Association (IMHA) brought forth several concerns at last Monday’s town council meeting, including rising user fees, a lack of a girls’ dressing room and delayed ice availability this year.
IMHA president Carolyn Hunter said the youth rate for ice time has increased by $5 each year over the past two years.
Ice time now costs $60 an hour plus GST. Continued increases will eventually become unfeasible, Hunter said.
“We want [the town] to realize we’re not just a customer that they might eventually outprice, we’re actually partners that are providing opportunities to members of the community,” said Hunter. “Their goal is to keep raising the user fees, and my concern is that there is a tipping point. We are a small community, if we keep raising these fees … you can make this recreation inaccessible to some youth.”
Hunter said alternative funding options need to be considered, because eventually IMHA will have to start reducing ice time in order to make the sport affordable for youth.
Inuvik Mayor Jim McDonald said from 2004 to 2014, there were no increases in ice user fees, and the increases were calculated based on the inflation rate.
McDonald said the arena alone costs approximately $2.4 million to maintain every year, and last year, user fees covered approximately $54,000 of that cost.
“The user fee rates are still really quite reasonable,” he said. “The town recognizes the importance of the facility … it is a big expense but it is important to the health of the community.”
Another issue is the delayed availability of the ice, which Hunter said the IMHA wasn’t consulted on. Instead of their usual October 1 start, IMHA isn’t able to start using the ice until October 15.
“We were advised about the delay, but what we would have liked to have seen was consultation about the delay. A lot of people have said in retort that we were told, but that’s what we’re trying to get away from – just being told, we want to work together with the town,” she said. “It was not a question, we were not asked how it would impact our organization, we were just told.”
McDonald said a letter and email was sent out about the delayed start in July, but very few groups responded.
Hunter said two things have been impacted by the delayed start time.
“First, we have youth training for the Canada Winter Games, and they need to be on the ice – even an October 1 start is late for them training for such a huge event, to represent the Northwest Territories on the national stage,” she said. “Second, we plan a regional hockey school for the entire Beaufort Delta that has been running for over 15 years, and we strategically planned this so that the kids aren’t missing school, and accessibility for the other communities, and we’ve had to move it to November.”
McDonald said the delayed ice availability is due to maintenance work being done on the arena as well as other events that have the space booked.
Hunter said another issue is the lack of a dressing room for girls, who currently use washrooms, closets and referee dressing rooms meant for two to three people as makeshift dressing rooms.
“We recognize that it will take time, but it needs to be budgeted for. We don’t expect it tomorrow, but we do expect a space for the girls soon,” said Hunter. “Girls are a part of our ice sports, and we need to make a respectful space for them, not washrooms and closets.”
McDonald said the problem is finding a space for a new dressing room.
“We just don’t have the space, and I know it is less than ideal, but we don’t have a lot of options for space,” he said.
At the town council meeting September 24, McDonald said town councillors expressed their support for IMHA and committed to looking into possible solutions.
“We have to find a space for the girls, we make up half the world,” said councillor Alana Mero.