Ice demand draws scrutiny

The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee and the City of Vernon are trying to rationalize ice time

Fewer kids playing hockey means the need for ice is under review.

The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee and the City of Vernon are trying to rationalize ice  time, including whether ongoing hours are needed at the private Okanagan Training Rink.

“There’s a downward trend in ice time needed for minor hockey,” said director Rob Sawatzky.

About 280 to 300 hours per year are rented for minor hockey at OTR, and if that continues in 2014, there will be a $12,000 subsidy (after hockey players pay GVAC $24,000 in fees).

“If we don’t subsidize OTR, we will have more people using our facilities,” said director Catherine Lord of Civic Arena, Kal Tire Place and Priest Valley Arena.

GVAC began renting ice time at OTR in the mid-1990s when the community’s two arenas — Civic and Priest Valley — were at capacity.

OTR has been used by ringette and minor hockey for its youngest members, who only need one half-size ice surface.

However, when Kal Tire Place opened in 2001, ice time at OTR was reduced, but some usage by young children has continued so older kids and adults had earlier ice times at the public facilities.

But it’s believed by some officials that sufficient time for everyone could now be available at Civic, Priest Valley and Kal Tire Place.

“Over time, city staff will try to maximize the use of the city ice facilities,” said David Sewell, Regional District of North Okanagan finance general manager.

A decision on OTR could come during GVAC’s 2014 budget process, but information on demographics and hockey registrations is needed.

“The politicians need to give more thought to the implications,” said Sawatzky.

“We need the latest trends and data and what the facts are.”

Other factors to consider are Civic Arena possibly being abandoned if a new arena is constructed next to Kal Tire Place.

“A lot of pressure has been taken off our facilities because people are going to Armstrong for hockey,” said Mike Macnabb, GVAC chairperson.