User groups disappointed with Pepsi Centre rate increase

Diane Crocker dcrocker@thewesternstar.com
Published on August 20, 2014
People enter the Pepsi Centre on Thursday, June 19, 2014. The city hopes to soon determine how a transfer of governance of the centre from Memorial University will proceed.

Geraldine Brophy

Some user groups at the Pepsi Centre were disappointed to find out last week that fees at the centre will be increasing.

The City of Corner Brook met with user groups last Thursday prior to announcing it would re-assume control of the centre as of Sept. 1. It was during that meeting that the groups were informed there would be a two per cent increase in fees this year, and that would most likely be the same for the next five years.

“It is already difficult to run these programs,” said Terri Donahue, the new president of the Silver Blades Skating Club.

“As non-profit organizations ... I feel we’re already charging quite a bit for these programs.”

She’s worried that as the fees increase, the club will have to charge its participants more and that will make the programs less accessible.

Donahue said the bottom line is you don’t want to lose the children.

If there has to be an increase, she thinks it’s better to implement it gradually rather than the whole 10 per cent up front, which is what happened last year.

Donahue is hopeful that the increase won’t affect the club too much this year, as the small increase is somewhat easier to swallow for the club and for parents. But it will mean some “retweaking” of the club’s budget.

After going through last year’s 10 per cent increase in fees, Cara-Leigh Wyllie was also concerned about the rates at the centre. Wyllie, president of the Corner Brook Minor Hockey Association, wasn’t happy to hear of the increase.

“We’re not thrilled that there’s any user increase, no user group is, but at least now we can do some long-term planning and know what we need to look at for the next five years,” she said. “We’ve been playing guessing games every summer.”

Wyllie said it’s still too early to say what the increase will mean to players this year as the association hasn’t completed its budget for the coming season.

While the rate increase is a negative, both Donahue and Wyllie welcomed the city taking control of the centre because of things like changes to security, having cleaners on staff and $100,000 in cosmetic upgrades.

Mayor Charles Pender said the city is still working on putting together a five-year plan for the building that would help to stabilize the subsidy and rates.

Part of that plan is to phase in any rate increases, Pender said, to make it easier for clubs to manage their finances.

The mayor said the current management of the centre will remain in place for the time being and meetings between the user groups and management will continue.

He also said the city is still working on the building’s new name.

The city had sought input from the public and has narrowed the name choice down to a couple possibilities. About a week ago, however, an outside submission on naming rights for the centre was received that the city is now reviewing.

Pender wouldn’t say who the submission was from or if it was local.

Whether the city goes with the submission or one of the publicly suggested names is “a question of balance,” said Pender: Does the city want to go with history or legacy in naming the building, and are there other ways of doing that by naming the rinks and rooms?

Pender said revenue from naming rights helps keep the subsidy and rates down.