Kin Arena could be opened faster, with more expense. EEC will be cheaper, but may not be not staffed until next year.
City council now has a report in their hands and will consider the implications of opening either the Kin Arena, or Encana Events Centre (EEC) ice surface to accommodate the current demand for ice time.
Last week, council received a delegation from DC Minor Hockey Association and correspondence from the Mile 0 Figure Skating Club, both requesting that Council reconsider opening the Kin Arena. COVID-19 operating guidelines have significantly restricted available ice times and these groups are having a difficult time accommodating all registered children in their programs. Council subsequently directed staff to bring back a report identifying the implications of opening either the Kin Arena, or the EEC to accommodate this demand for ice times.
“Earlier this year, staff provided operational budget reduction scenarios of 5%, 10%, 15% respectively for the Kin Arena and provided a further alternate option that "Given the implications of COVID-19, specifically the provincial guidelines on "return to play", says Ross deBoer, General Manager of Community Services.
“Council may consider closing the Kin Arena until such time as we return to the "new normal". Council then passed a resolution that the Kin Arena remain closed until the Province of BC declares Phase 4 of the BC Restart Plan,” deBoer reports.
He notes both resources and manpower are available to open the Kin Arena and subject to the direction of Council, and that staff could have ice available near the end of November.
“The building typically opens in early October and the average annual cost to operate is approximately $450,000, or approximately $70,000 per month during the ice season,” adds deBoer.
“Approximately $220,000 has been expended in the 2020 budget to date and it is estimated that it will cost approximately $280,000 to operate for the balance of the 2020/21 season.”
While the EEC may be cheaper to run – qualified staff let go due to COVID-19 is an issue.
Due to the size of the refrigeration system and the type of refrigerant used, the city is required to have a 4th Class Power Engineer or higher, or a Refrigeration Operator on site for a minimum 8 hours a day. “Due to COVID-19, several of these qualified operational staff are on temporary layoff, or have been terminated. Time will be required to re-hire, onboard, and re-train staff and ensure we meet the requirements of Technical Safety BC,” notes deBoer.
It is anticipated that this process, including the development of approved safety plans (Northern Health / Technical Safety BC), rehiring and training staff, building preparation, and ice installation will take approximately nine weeks with public use starting the week of January 11, 2021.
The provisional budget to operate the EEC for the remainder of the ice season is estimated at $164,763.00.
deBoer provides alternatives as well. Council could direct staff to open the Kin Arena to accommodate the requests from ice user groups. City council could direct staff to open the Encana Event Centre to accommodate the requests from ice user groups, or city council could reaffirm the direction to staff to keep the Kin Arena Closed until the province declares Phase 4 of the BC Restart Plan.
In any scenario, deBoer notes the province could step in with more COVID-19 restrictions.
“Council should consider the possibility that as COVID-19 cases increase across the country, there is a very real possibility that provincial health directive's may revert back to Phase 2 Guidelines which will place greater restrictions on our ability to host ice programs.”
City council is expected to make a decision Monday.