© Star file photo
The Pepsi Centre is the major sports facility in Corner Brook.
CORNER BROOK Despite the approval of an increased rental rate at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook, Cara-Leigh Wyllie feels the lobbying effort against it was effective.
The president of the Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association said the 10 per cent rise is better than the proposed 15 per cent, and thinks maybe the group she is a part of had an impact. But the biggest influence may have been the opening of communication between user groups, the board of Western Sports and Entertainment, staff at the Pepsi Centre and the public.
“I always want to look at the positive,” she said. “We prefer the 10 per cent to the 15 per cent, but we are still opposed to any increase in fees whether it be ice rental or meeting spaces.”
She also said the public attention was effective in raising concerns and awareness of the management and maintenance of the facility.
The increase was announced Thursday as the board approved the 2013-2014 budget for the Pepsi Centre.
Wyllie said members of the concerned user groups will continue to meet to determine their next course of action. Until all groups meet and decide, she said she did not want to say whether they will continue opposing the increase. The group will be making a formal presentation of the petition that has collected at least 600-700 signatures — but Wyllie said there are at least three more petitions at businesses she has yet to collect. The goal was to get 1,000 signatures in opposition of the fee hikes.
The budget document was not available Thursday. Allan Kendall, chair of the board, said it was not put together as a complete document yet. Once it is compiled — which he expects will be the middle of next week — it will be available on the website www.pepsicentre.ca.
The chair said public engagement played a factor in the board’s effort to balance the budget, which he said is again in the ballpark of $2 million.
“I wouldn’t say we changed our minds from 15 to 10 per cent because of it,” he said. “We just looked at what we were doing with regards to how we operate the facility, the cleanliness of it, and all the things that came to light.”
Some of the concerns around maintenance and operation required the board to approve additional expenses to resolve, Kendall said. He also said the board considered where else it could get funding and realize savings.
The 10 per cent rental increase, effective Sept. 1, was not just for the ice surfaces, but all spaces — including meeting rooms.
Advertising space and rates for the newly refurbished Pepsi Studio are unchanged this fiscal year.
A fee structure for the walking track is approved in principle. Kendall said the logistics of this have yet to be finalized, but he said the fee will be a “couple of dollars.”
It is a measure commonly implemented for such a service, said the chair, however accessibility remains a focus — especially for seniors, new mothers, and individuals undergoing rehabilitation.
“We want to promote health and wellness and contribute to promoting an active lifestyle, while meeting the many increasing demands on the facility,” a prepared release stated.
The increases will help the organization meet continuous cost increases and to implement maintenance and custodial issues, including a garbage and recycling program and “butt out” stations.
“We recognize how averse the community is to an increase in rates, but it is absolutely necessary if the Pepsi Centre is to continue to serve the region in an efficient and healthy manner,” Kendall stated in the release.
There was also discussion about implementing paid parking at the centre, but Kendall said the plans were too much to finalize for this year. It remains a possibility in the future.
The chair, a new board member, considered the opposition and public engagement pertaining to the cost and operation of the Pepsi Centre a valuable one. He hopes people learned where the money in the operation goes, and it all leads to a greater co-operation in the future.
He said the board is open to regular meetings with its user groups to continue discussions about how to maximize use of the facility.
The board plans to implement a new feedback line this fall so patrons can relay any concerns or questions.