by Frank Bucholtz, Mission Record
Mission council has narrowly approved a one-year experiment in lengthening the ice time available at the Leisure Centre.
Council voted 4-3 to accept a proposal to extend the ice season in the south arena for 14 weeks, from late March until June. The extra cost will be just over $25,000. The experiment will take place in the spring of 2016.
The proposal from several ice user groups was examined by the parks, recreation and culture department, which brought a report to council on Oct. 19. recommending the extended ice season.
Council members had raised concerns about the effect on other user groups, notably Mission Minor Lacrosse (MML), and the additional cost. Most of the extra cost will be in hiring staff to maintain the ice for the extra period. While additional revenue will be generated from user groups, it is not expected to be enough to cover the full costs, said deputy parks, recreation and culture director Stephanie Key.
The department did a comprehensive study of all user groups at the arena and how much time they actually used the facilities. MML uses the floor of the arena for an average of 38 hours per week each spring. Most of its use has been at the north arena, which will remain available next spring.
Key said the north arena will be available for at least 56 hours per week for dry floor users in that period. Minor lacrosse is the main user, with roller hockey users using it about three hours per week.
Lacrosse is growing in popularity in Mission. In 2015, MML had 215 participants, up from 2194 in 2013. By contrast, Mission Minor Hockey had 334 participants in 2014-14, down from 369 in 2012-13.
Other users of the ice are: Mission Skating Club, with 50 users; Mission Racers speed skating club, with no users in the past year, but 21 the year before; the Mission Outlaws Junior B hockey team, Hatzic Middle School hockey academy, with 45; Mission Secondary hockey academy, with 30; and nine adult groups with 190 users in total.
The skating club uses facilities in Aldergrove and Abbotsford each spring, the proposal pointed out. Mayor Randy Hawes said some adult ice users from Mission travel as far as Coquitlam to play recreational hockey, because of lack of ice availability in Mission.
The two hockey academies will also use the ice in the spring if it is available, according to the proposal. Under a joint facilities use agreement, school groups do not pay to use the Leisure Centre.
Coun. Jenny Stevens and several other council members noted that a number of lacrosse parents had been contacting them, stating that lacrosse players were getting “the short end of the stick,” as a result of the proposal. However, she was satisified when told they would not lose any hours.
Coun. Rhett Nicholson said the department needs to look at improvements to the outdoor lacrosse box in Centennial Park so that it could be used for games as well as practices.
“We haven’t tried to sacrifice one sport for another,” Key told council. “All sports have value in our community.”
Hawes said tyke lacrosse players could use the gym at the Leisure Centre for practices, noting that they are beginners and many are just learning how to catch the ball with their sticks. The gym is properly set up for such users, he said.
Coun. Carol Hamilton said she was concerned about the additional cost.
“The arena is a very expensive facility and we should be utilizing it,” Hawes said. “This is a one-year trial and it will be reviewed. It’s an inexpensive way to find out if it works.”
Hawes, Stevens, Nicholson and Coun. Pam Alexis voted to try out the additional ice time next spring, with Hamilton, Coun. Jim Hinds and Coun. Danny Plecas opposed.
Stevens said it is important that the community understand that all sports user groups will get the time that they need.