Rental fee hikes this late in the year would put undue pressure on minor sports groups, two of Woolwich’s largest organizations say. Representatives from minor hockey and youth soccer this week called on township council to freeze rates for 2011.
Both Woolwich Minor Hockey and Woolwich Youth Soccer have set their registration rates for the year, so any additional costs would come out of their budgets. And both representatives say prices are already creeping up too high, making them uncompetitive with other centers.
“We can’t increase rates to our users anymore,” Steve Hanley, president of the Woolwich Minor Hockey Association, told councillors Tuesday night, noting rental costs have jumped by 79 per cent over the past six years.
Registration fees for hockey are now 36 per cent higher than in neighbouring Centre-Wellington Township, for instance, he said – “that’s pathetic.”
The additional five per cent Woolwich is looking for in 2011 would mean another $12,000 in fees. The organization pays the township some $300,000 a year for ice rentals. Current rates are $181.41 an hour for primetime ice rentals and $101.76 for non-primetime ice.
WMHA already pays rates comparable to those in the cities and other nearby communities, but is getting a smaller subsidy on its rates, 30 per cent versus 40, 50 or even 60 in other municipalities, he said.
The organization is facing a $70,000 shortfall this year, even before the proposed rate hike, Hanley added, noting money will have to be raised through bake sales and dances and other fundraisers.
Recognizing the township has financial problems of its own with the Woolwich Memorial Centre, where expenses last year were $385,000 over budget, Hanley called on the township to find revenues elsewhere rather than continually going back to those who pay fees.
“Don’t take it out on the users. We’re pricing the sport out of the market. Minor hockey should not be financing the building’s inefficiencies.”
Hanley’s request got a sympathetic hearing from councillors, who instructed staff to look at alternatives given the predicament. Mayor Todd Cowan suggested looking at a bulk discount for WMHA, which is the biggest customer of ice time.
However, the financial difficulties at the WMC had councillors Mark Bauman and Allan Poffenroth reluctant to forego revenues, splitting the vote.
“We know we have significant costs,” said Bauman, pointing to massive cost overruns at the facility. “We could get ourselves in a worse predicament than when we went through our budget this year.”
There were fewer issues with Woolwich Youth Soccer, which is facing a 10 per cent increase in field rental costs this year.
The organization’s John Collinson said the fee increases for 2011 come well after registration rates have been set; any changes would be a hardship.
Adding to the problem is the fact that of 20 communities surveyed by WYS, only two have rates higher than Woolwich. As well, most have better facilities than what Woolwich offers, he said, pointing to overuse that has left the pitches in poor condition.
The group would feel better about rising rates if the money was going to improvements: “pay more, get more.”
There’s a need for more fields, and at least one more with lighting to allow for evening games, he stressed. Currently there’s only one lighted pitch in the township, at Lions Park in Elmira.
According to 2003 report, Woolwich needed two more full-size and four smaller pitches. Two of the so-called squirt fields were created in St. Jacobs and there’s now a full pitch in Breslau, but the township remains underserviced.
Collinson pointed out participation has grown to 1,100 kids today from 600 at the time of the recreation study in 2003.
More fields would give the organization some breathing room, and allow pitches to see less wear-and-tear, making it easier for the township to maintain them, he added.
Director of recreation and facilities Larry Devitt said he’s been working with Woolwich Youth Soccer to improve the quality of the existing pitches, acknowledging the overuse issue. As for the rates, his department is looking at setting fees for a three- or four-year period so that user groups can budget in advance, knowing what to expect.
Devitt plans to meet with WYS members to discuss this year’s rates and future improvements, including lighting a second field at Lions Park, estimate to cost $150,000.