It was something. Not everything, but something for arena and pool user groups.
On Monday, city council voted to re-open the three Kin arenas and the Prince George Aquatic Centre, which have been shuttered since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month city staff suggested keeping all the city’s arenas and the Aquatic Centre closed indefinitely as the city struggles to deal with a budget shortfall of about $1 million per month, due to the pandemic.
That drew the ire of user groups, who were buoyed by a city announcement in June that the arenas and pool would open in August. But re-opening comes with a price. Re-opening will add $900,000 to the $3 million budget shortfall the city is facing this year, and roughly another $2 million to an expected $5.63 million shortfall projected for 2021.
“Eventually these facilities have to reopen,” said Coun. Cori Ramsay. “(But) I think we need to look at fees and charges. Opening these facilities costs money. It costs more during COVID. If this is going to go until the end of 2021, into 2022, we really need to look at them.”
Council, however, decided to keep CN Centre, Rolling Mix Concrete Arena, Elksentre, Four Seasons Leisure Pool and the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre will remain closed for the remainder of the year.
The Kin Centre arenas, which all use the same ice plant, should re-open by mid-August while the Aquatic Centre will re-open in early September. Ice use will be limited to skills development.
While minor hockey players will be taking to the ice soon, the decision leaves the city’s two junior hockey teams in limbo. The WHL has announced it plans to start the season October 2 and the BCHL is looking at a December 1 start. However, that is likely a no-go if the province remains in Phase 3 of its recovery plan.