Friday, March 5, 2021

Bothwell & Erickson arenas set to be temporarily re-purposed

Chatham-Kent Council voted to temporarily re-purpose the Bothwell Arena and Erickson Arena in Chatham at their electronic meeting held on Monday, November 9, 2020.

However, the decision could be revisited at their upcoming meeting scheduled for Monday, November 23, 2020.

Council approved that from December 2020 to March 2021, both Erickson Arena and Bothwell Arena, will be converted into multipurpose facilities with the ability for staff to extend the trials to a typical date of ice installation in 2021.

“As a significant portion of the 2020 budget is based on rental revenue, the municipality’s 10 arenas are operating at a deficit $235,867 per month,” said Jeff Bray, director of parks, recreation and cemeteries, in a report.

“Through creating alternative recreational activities for a broader demographic, the recommendations in this report are proposed to make our arena facilities more financially viable and responsive to community needs.”

Bray said over the years, all Chatham-Kent arenas have experienced an average decline in ice rentals of 9% over the past five years, mainly due to the following socio-demographic trends:

– Aging demographics

– Merged user groups

– Financial restraints of residents

– Less interest in participating in sports due to time commitment, safety concerns

– Leisure preferences and increasing resident diversity away from ice-based sports

“An additional factor to consider is that based on industry norms, the indicators are the municipality simply has too many arenas to support compared to its population base,” Bray said in his report.

“A study conducted by Alan Bailey Consulting Company for Chatham-Kent in 1998 identified that the industry norm for the provision of arenas is one arena per 15,000 residents. Based on this criterion, Chatham-Kent ice needs can be supported adequately with seven arenas.”

Bray added a second standard industry metric suggests one ice pad per 500 youth registrants in ice-based activities is required.

“Based on the 2019 registration levels (of) 3,001 registrants, Chatham-Kent requires only six arena facilities,” Bray said in his report.

“To date, 2020 ice rentals have fallen from 42% of available ice hours utilized to 31%. This further reduction can be attributed to COVID related reasons; for example reduced registrations and occupancy restrictions in the facility and dressing rooms. Consequently, current ice rentals have declined to a point where all ice requests can be accommodated in six arenas.”

Bray said in his report the proposed pilot project’s repurposing will provide an estimated operational savings of $164,000 for the two arenas based on December 2020 to March 2021 usage.

“These savings are based on the estimated reduction in operational costs associated with ice making,” Bray said.

“Expenses are estimated to be $25,000, for a net savings of $139,000.”

Read Bray’s full report, here.

Chatham Councillor Michael Bondy said on social media he intends to bring the item back to the Council floor.

“I am bringing this back to Council for reconsideration,” Bondy said on Facebook.

“We have to hear what the public is telling us. The lack of information from administration led us to a incorrect decision, in my opinion. Hopefully we reverse this.”

The Bothwell Area Recreation Advisory Committee has been active on social media, voicing their concern and frustration over the November 9 Council decision.

The November 23 Council meeting is set to take place at 6 p.m.

It can be live streamed, here.

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