Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I'm a Rink Rant who Needs a Rink

The below is from a column I had printed in the February 26, 2013 edition of the Kings County Record.  I softened it a little so it wasn't overly confrontational.  I strongly feel that in NB we all need to pull together to get our government to support more recreation, education, and health issues and leave the business up to business.  If we have the resources here and there is a market, business will come, either now or down the road.  In my mind down the road is likely more sustainable.  I'd be interested in knowing your thoughts on what we can do to overcome this issue.
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I am likely to raise a little ire with what I'm about to write.  This may come across more as an editorial than a simple column so if you aren't interested in hearing my opinion, I suggest you move on to another column today.


 As a parent, a player, and volunteer for many of this areas sports and recreation organizations, I find it tough to observe the ongoing debate and division over local rinks and recreational facilities.  This isn't just a local problem, similar problems are occurring across our Province.  Grand Bay-Westfield is the most recent example of where a community is struggling to keep their arena operational.



Our government continues to provide a number of grants, subsidies, and poor loan guarantees which our tax dollars fund.  More often than not we get little in return for these investments, especially anything sustainable.  My question is why does the government not invest more into the operation of recreational facilities?  The Town of Sussex has stated they can no longer afford to shoulder the operating deficit on their own due to changes in the municipal grant system, which they now receive less of.  This has led them to find other ways to increase user revenues to cover costs.  I appreciate their position even though it puts me into a tough situation as well, especially when my son and daughter want to play hockey next year.

It upsets me (to put it politely), that our Provincial government can not step up, with the funds raised through the Atlantic Lotto Corp, or through resource royalties, and fix this problem.  They continue to throw money into business development corporations that do the research and monitoring work that in my opinion should be paid for by business.  You hear commercials from our Province stating they support initiatives that will help curb childhood obesity.  Now when its time for the rubber to hit the road, where are they?


Here in the Sussex region we have been pitched against one another.  I think we need to start asking our provincial government to step up.  They need to be serious about creating a healthy future where recreational facilities and functioning ecosystems are considered the proverbial ounce of prevention.  We have to accept some responsibility and look at ways we can control and reduce costs as well.  Maybe our vision of Minor Hockey has to change and we alter the divisions so more kids can play in the same division.  Maybe we need to restructure Hockey NB so teams travel less, saving parents money so they can afford higher registration fees. 


This can only be done if the Province steps up and helps local sport.  The elite and highly skilled athletes now have numerous ways to fund their endeavors so let's provide them with less and give the developing youth a chance.  My fear is that if the Province doesn't step up for the communities they serve our current hockey and skating programs could crash or the non-profit agencies that aid people struggling to keep their kids in sport will crash.  If the costs for minor hockey increase, participation drops, and thus, more rate increases will be needed to cover the shortfall and a devastating cycle begins.  The worse case scenario is that our local arena will close.  On the bright side it could bode well for the sport as more kids will turn to the frozen ponds and remove the business side from the sport.
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