The Fort Frances council approved the recommendation from the Community Service Division to remove the ice from the Ice for Kids arena at the Memorial Sports Centre.
Aaron Bisson, recreation and culture manager, said this approval will achieve two goals. First, it will reduce the operating costs for the arena, and second they will have a space readily available for a temporary hospital if required by Riverside Healthcare.
“We need to make sure that we’re also being prudent with taxpayers money,” Bisson said. “We’re being smart with the decisions that we make. I think at this time, pulling the one arena and leaving the second round to go back to hockey and skating is the right thing to do at this point.”
Bisson said because of the stay at home order and provincial lockdown enacted now until at least February 11, they had to take a look at the costs of operating the arenas and the revenues that were potentially going to be brought in for the remainder of the season.
Fort Frances is not the only municipality in northwestern Ontario set to remove ice from their arenas. Dryden, Kenora, Red Lake and Thunder Bay are either in the process of removing ice or gathering information on whether they should be limiting the number of ice sheets they offer moving forward.
“Dryden has already pulled one of its ice surfaces out. I believe it was about two weeks ago, they had started that process already,” Bisson said. “Kenora was in the preliminary stages of looking at what the costs of running various services were, and gathering information on whether they should be looking at taking on ice services or not.”
Bisson said based on their analysis, they can satisfy 80 per cent of ice demands using only one ice surface.
According to the report submitted to council, the Memorial Sports Centre currently has on average 45 blocks of 1.5 hour sessions of ice time booked across the two surfaces.
“We have the ability to handle 36 – 1.5 hour blocks on the 52 Canadians rink which is the most cost effective rink to operate between the two,” the report stated. “If we operated only one rink we would not be able to accommodate nine time blocks or 20 per cent of total demand that we are currently accommodating.”
Bisson said given they are into the sixth week of ice season with an obscure vision of what the province determines in terms of lockdowns, saving taxpayers’ money is the right thing to do.
“They use a lot of power,” Bisson said. “We use natural gas for heating and the resurfacing of the ice surfaces. There is a lot of input costs into running an ice surface as well as the labor that it takes to maintain those surfaces.”