Since March, all civic facilities in Prince George have been closed due to provincial health restrictions. With British Columbia now in Phase 3 of the COVID-19 restart plan, many facilities are slated to reopen. However, the pandemic has had another effect on cities and communities.
In a report brought before Prince George city council, the financial costs of the pandemic were laid bare. It was recommended by city administration that the city close all indoor facilities for the remainder of 2020. This included the PG Conference Centre, all city pools, and all hockey arenas to help make up a budget shortfall.
In a city council meeting this past Monday night, council voted to reopen the Aquatic Centre and all three Kin Arenas. Council also voted to close Elks Centre, CN Centre, and Rolling Mix Concrete Arena until January 2021.
In the report presented to council, it was recommended all civic facilities remain closed because of several factors. They argued that the current Phase 3 restrictions and increased cleaning standards would limit the facilities’ operating capacity, thus making them less cost-effective.
They also argued that because of the loss of different revenue streams, the city would be forced to operate these facilities at a loss. Recreation services are already subsidized by the city so they can be affordable for residents.
This decision could be reversed if several things occur. The first is if the province enters Phase 4 of its restart plan, then the city could reopen all arenas without any restrictions. Increased user demand under Phase 3 could also prompt an additional ice surface to reopen.
— PrinceGeorgeMatters (@PGMatters) July 28, 2020
As for the Spruce Kings, they made changes to their summer hockey school. In a release issued on Tuesday, they announced that their modified hockey school will switch venues.
Changes and challenges
From August 17-21 and August 24-28, the modified hockey school will be at Kin 1 Arena. The school will have each group on the ice for one hour at a time. With one problem solved, the RMCA closure does cause another problem for the Spruce Kings.
On July 24, the Prince George Citizen published an article written by Ted Clarke. Clarke spoke with Spruce Kings general manager Mike Hawes about the arena situation and specifically how it would affect recruitment efforts for the team.
“We recruit players and bring them in here based on what we can offer them and the luxuries of our nice dressing room are very important in that process,” said Hawes. “This is going to have huge implications on us if this passes Monday.”
For reference, Rolling Mix Concrete Arena is the oldest rink in Prince George. It opened in 1958 and has been the Spruce Kings home since 1972. Because of its age, the cost-recovery rate is low when compared to other facilities that the city operates.
In a statement put out after the city voted to reopen the Kin Arenas, Hawes commended the decision. He said that reopening some of the arenas will help youth and provide some normalcy back to their lives. The statement also describes conversations the Spruce Kings have had with the city’s arena managerial staff.
SUMMER HOCKEY SCHOOL UPDATE | The Spruce Kings are excited to announce that the 2020 Modified Summer Hockey School will take place at the Kin 1 Arena!
— Prince George Spruce Kings (@SpruceKings) July 28, 2020
“I have been reassured that when the time comes that our BCHL season has the province’s approval to start and we can require the use of our home arena, a new recommendation will be made by city staff to city council reopen the RMCA,” expressed Hawes.
The future as of now
The Prince George Cougars have a tentative start date of October 2 to begin their Western Hockey League regular season. As stated before, the Spruce Kings regular season has a tentative start date of December 1. Players are expected to begin to arrive in late September.
The Spruce Kings will start their extended training camp on October 1. At this point, there is no indication when the province might enter Phase 4 in the battle against COVID-19. The next Prince George city council meeting is scheduled for August 17 when there’s no doubt further discussion around the arenas in PG will be on the table.