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Local arenas fighting losing revenue battle with decreased ice-time registration

TRURO - New ways have to be created to generate both revenue and general interest in Colchester County's hockey arenas if they are going to survive.

That was the suggestion made during a recent Colchester County council meeting following a presentation by Craig Burgess, the municipality's recreation manager.

"The arenas are finding it a little bit tough," he said of the three county-owned rinks in Brookfield, Debert and Tatamagouche. "We're looking to encourage more participation in the arenas."

The rinks are facing financial difficulties in part because of ice time revenue lost to the Rath Eastlink Community Centre (RECC).

The county currently contributes a total of $35,000 to pay for insurance costs at the three facilities as well as being responsible for capital expenses for required repairs or renovations.

Burgess said his department is also working with the arenas and community groups to try to develop more affordable programs to help them generate additional revenue.

Further efforts have seen the county purchasing ice time for free public skating sessions or other activities. And Burgess said staff have also been working to develop other programs so the facilities can be utilized during the offseason.

Ultimately, however, council determined that ways are going to have to be developed to get more people involved in using the arenas as much as possible.

"I'm one of those people who think we can fix it," Deputy Mayor Bill Masters said, adding, however, that such measures must involve more than simply writing a bigger cheque each year to cover arena shortfalls.

"If we don't solve the root issue, which is to get more people involved, that's what these arenas are for," he said.

"If this municipality, and we put close to a million dollars a year into arenas now (including the RECC), feels that we've got to jumpstart kids into hockey, then maybe we're going to have to have our own hockey association. Because, rightly or wrongly, they are our arenas. They are community assets."

And that could mean changing the minor hockey system or developing a new system to get more people involved at an earlier age, he suggested.

Burgess told council his department will continue to work with the arenas and community groups to look at new ways of developing extra revenue.

Twitter: @tdnharry

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