BARRHEAD-Users wishing to rent the Barrhead Agrena's ice surface will have to pay a little more.
Town of Barrhead councillors voted to increase the summer rental of ice to match the rate for the rest of the year.
The amended rate would be $179.90 (including GST) per hour for groups or individuals within the Barrhead municipalities and $189.60 (including GST) for those outside the community.
The administration recommended the increase to make the rate uniform with the regular-season rate.
Typically the parks and recreation install the ice in the Agrena sometime in early August to accommodate groups wishing to put on summer hockey camps or tryouts.
Chief administrative officer Edward LeBlanc noted that the current summer rate of $160.20 (town and county users) and $170.90 (for users outside the immediate area) per hour has been in place since March when councillors decided to bump the rate by $20 an hour. The rates include the GST.
The price does not include the 40 per cent rebate the municipality gives to minor sporting associations, such as the Barrhead Skating Club and the Barrhead Minor Hockey Association (BMHA).
LeBlanc said the administration, with the help of the parks and recreation department, undertook a comprehensive analysis this spring of the annual arena operating costs using pre-covid 2019 operations as a guide and included a 2.3 per cent increase in 2020 and 2021 for inflation.
The conclusion they drew from the analysis is that the current adult ice rental ($179.90 per hour) rate represents a 94.7 per cent cost recovery, while the subsidized minor sports organization rate during prime-time hours ($107.10 per hour) represents a 57.9 per cent cost recovery. Prime ice rink hours are 4 p.m. onward after school is out.
However, LeBlanc expects Agrena's operating expenses will decrease next season due to improvements in the ice plant. During the council's Oct. 12 meeting, he estimated the utility savings to be about $22,000 annually.
Work on the upgrades is slated to begin in late April and should be complete by July 26.
Coun. Anthony Oswald asked why the summer rates were lower than in the fall and winter.
"The ice plant has to work harder during the warm temperatures of summer than it does in the winter," he said.
LeBlanc agreed but added that when staff did the analysis, it was for the cost of putting in and maintaining the ice for the full fiscal year.
Coun. Dave Sawatzky was concerned that Agrena's ice rental rate wasn't competitive, saying there is a risk that they could lose tournaments or teams to nearby facilities.
According to the council package, adult recreation ice rates per hour for Athabasca, Whitecourt, Mayerthorpe, Westlock and Fox Creek ranged from a low of $120 in Fox Creek to $154.35 in Westlock. For minor sports organizations, the hourly ice rate after 4 p.m. ranged from a low of $65 in Fox Creek to $100 in Athabasca.
Early morning weekday ice time before 9 a.m. ranged from $64.51 per hour in Whitecourt to $94.30 in Barrhead. Other Barrhead hourly ice rates include school rentals at $43.90 and weekday "dark time" (the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. stretch when potential users are at school or work) at $84. The hourly rental for competitive hockey games is also set at $179.90.
The only municipality other than Barrhead in the region with summer ice is Westlock at an hourly rate of $154.35.
The information package did not include the ice rinks in Linaria, Fort Assiniboine, or Rich Valley. However, the latter, according to the Rich Valley Agricultural Society website, is $135 an hour from Oct. 1 to March 31.
Parks and recreation director Shallon Touet said while there is a possibility they could lose tournaments or teams to arenas sporting lower hourly rates, he doesn't believe that is likely.
He said since his arrival in the winter of 2016, to his knowledge, a local tournament or team has not left for greener pastures.
"I don't think we would lose to places like Rich Valley as they are unable to have a sanctioned tournament as their ice surface isn't 200 by 85 feet," Touet said. "They also have other issues with their ice surface, which is basically butted against one wall."
He also noted Rich Valley's winter ice rate for minor youth activities is more expensive for Barrhead area groups.
"And since I have been here, we haven't received a request for ice time for a team outside our community," Touet added.
Coun. Don Smith expanded on Oswald's comments saying there should be no difference between the price of summer ice should be at least equal to winter rates.
He added he wasn't concerned that the Agrena's rates were higher than surrounding facilities.
"We have a great facility. We have a different tax base that is way different from the Town of Westlock and the other communities. Nor do I think we are in competition with each other," Smith said.