Citing concerns about setting a costly precedent and wary of supporting a for-profit entity, council made a goal line stop Tuesday, turning down a $50,0000 naming-rights-in-lieu-of-ice-rental-fees request from the Wellington Dukes.
Members of the local Jr. A hockey club appeared before council last month, to ask local government to trade regular season game nights (27 games) and practice-ice costs in exchange for promotional title and advertising rights. The monetary value of the request was $50,000, but it was clear council wasn’t about to give up such a big goal when other shooters would be getting in line to ask for subsidized rental fees.
Council unanimously voted against in-kind trade of ice fees for naming rights, but did approve a new five-year working agreement with the club.
In her report to Council, Director of Recreation and Community Facilities Lisa Lindsay noted about 75 per cent of the annual revenue accumulated at Lehigh Area comes by way of ice rentals. Revenue from the Wellington Dukes Junior Hockey Club averages $41,000 during the regular season and $7,600 during playoffs, and accounts for 13 per cent of the facility’s annual earnings.
Ms. Lindsay said in her report the municipality has an interest in ensuring Ontario Junior Hockey League hockey continues, as it offers tourism and economic opportunities. Costs associated with supporting the team, however, may affect the municipality’s ability to support other local organizations that offer critical services to the community.
The report indicated ice rental rates could not be increased enough in 2023-24 to offset the potential waived revenue given the lack of desirable ice rental time slots outside of already programmed ice-time. The revenue loss would need to be absorbed into the 2024 operating Budget.
“The naming sponsorship with the Wellington Dukes group would provide marketing opportunities for the County and would ensure that the organization is able to continue operating in Wellington. If the Wellington Dukes become unable to afford ice rentals and other operating costs and decided to fold, it would be a loss to the local community,” Ms. Lindsay wrote. “However, it is also important to consider the precedent that would be set by financially investing in a private athletic association. Other hockey leagues in Prince Edward County, other arena ice users, and other recreation leagues such as soccer and baseball, may expect a similar opportunity. The municipality must consider the costs and loss of revenue associated with granting financial support and/or exemptions to recreation users.”
Councillor Bill Roberts said he was fan of both the Wellington Dukes and the Picton Pirates junior teams and was happy local hockey fans were so well served by teams that were in differing demographics. But he added that councillors and senior staff around the horseshoe needed to be “consistent and serious” about the costs of local government. Franting $50,000 to a for-profit entity “flies in the face of that.”
“The county needs to be seen as going after all the revenue it can possibly be getting a time of real economic turmoil,” Mr Roberts said. “We don’t need the advertising. We have two marketing organizations with big budgets and if they see this as a great marketing platform, more power to them.”