Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey has told council that high ice costs are a barrier to playing the game.

Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey has told council that high ice costs are a barrier to playing the game.

High ice fees hitting Ridge minor hockey, council hears

Minor hockey association wants next arena to be owned by the city.

Kids play hockey for the love of the game in Maple Ridge, not because it’s a cheap way to have fun.

And their parents pay for the privilege, with some of the highest ice time costs around.

“Everyone’s jaw hits the floor when they find out we pay $620,000 just to get ice. It’s far in excess of other associations,” Derek Gullmes, an executive member of the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association, told Maple Ridge council last week.

Costs for ice alone work out to $600 a year for every player, with total average costs at about $1,000 a year for a kid to play minor hockey.

“These are big concerns for us. They’re really a barrier. It’s preventing a lot of families from being able to afford to play the game.”

Gullmes had a PowerPoint presentation that showed the five ice sheets in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge were all privately owned.

But other cities have both city-owned and private rinks, or have exclusively city-owned rinks.

In Coquitlam, there are two city-owned rinks, comprising a third of the number of ice sheets.

Mission, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody have only city-owned rinks while, only 23 per cent of the rinks in Burnaby are city owned,  with the rest under private ownership.

Gullmes, along with a Kelli Semple-Borkowsky, with the Ridge Meadows Minor Lacrosse Association, both spoke about a shortage of facilities and playing time as council continues with its recreation upgrade consultation.

Gullmes said if there were more ice rinks, more kids could play hockey.

“We’re confident that if we had more facilities … we could easily grow our game by 10 or 20 per cent.

Gullmes said that in 2013 and 2014, the association cut registration costs for two age groups – which resulted in a 50-per-cent increase in kids registering.

But he wants the next arena to be owned by the city.

“We believe a city-run facility is very important to our long-term viability.”

In the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association, in 2016-17, it costs $505 a year for players under seven and $890 a year for midgets (Grades 10-12).

At the midget and bantam rep levels, with tryout fees included, it cost $1,060 a year. That does not include team fees, which help pay for tournaments. Teams generally enter two to three tournaments a year, costing hundreds more dollars each per player.

The registration fee for players under seven in the Coquitlam Minor Hockey Association is $460, and $810 a year for midget.

In the Abbotsford Minor Hockey Association, it costs $345 a year for a six year old to play, with yearly fees maxing out at $710 a year at the midget level.

In Langley, the basic fees are $500 for under seven, and $705 a year for midget.

Planet Ice leases out the Cam Neely Arena on a full-time, year-round basis to the city, as part of a long-term agreement with Maple Ridge.

The city then rents out that ice time or arena time to minor sports groups at subsidized rates.

But that accounts for only about 30 per cent of the ice needed by the Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey Association, with the balance having to be rented directly from Planet Ice, using the second arena.

Having more ice times could spare some of the early practices. Gullmes said many families have to leave for work early in the morning and can’t get their kids to early practices, so kids just can’t play.

“There is no other minor sport activity that does anything before school.”

Nevertheless, this area has one of highest participation rates in minor hockey.

Gullmes suggested one way to alleviate the situation immediately would be to buy a temporary floor that could be laid out on to the ice in Cam Neely arena. That would allow hockey to get on the ice earlier in the fall when Maple Ridge Burrards are still using arena.

“Clearly, we need more ice,” said Mayor Nicole Read.

She reminded him of the public consultation underway that will allow council to set its priorities for new recreation projects. The mail-in survey has just completed.

Open houses and workshops will soon follow. User groups will be notified, staff said.

Dave Van Straten, Planet Ice general manager, said he didn’t know how Ridge Meadows Minor Hockey fees compared with other cities.

“They’re paying whatever city council has determined to be their subsidized rates.”

And there are early practice times at all four Planet Ice locations, he added.

He explained that the ice in Cam Neely arena usually comes out in late March to allow for lacrosse and ball hockey, which is why it’s not available next spring for a provincial minor hockey tournament.

Van Straten said he’d work with whatever the city wants.

Council told staff to report on further subsidization of ice rates and costs for buying a temporary floor.