PICTOU COUNTY – As the winter season approaches and winter sports begin, Pictou County’s ice surfaces are also heating up.
Rink Manager Colin Dorrington stands in at the Westville Miners Sports Centre Ice Skating Rink yesterday. While rinks in the county are gearing up for the winter sports season, this will be the first winter without the JBM, which was closed in May. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS
Some new surfaces have joined the group while others have departed over the last year.
The John Brother MacDonald Stadium, opened in 1951, closed its ice surface a little over a week after it was revealed that the Pictou County Wellness Centre, with its two ice surfaces, had a large operating deficit for its first year as well as the one to follow.
According to general manager Mike Adam things are looking up for the Wellness Centre, which was on financial thin ice in May.
“I’m optimistic. There’s no doubt people had an attachment to the JBM but now they’ll get a chance to play in a new, bright facility,” said Adam, who was former manager of the JBM.
Adam said, so far, bookings are up which means more money in the centre’s coffers. But it also means spending more on lights and staff to accommodate the increased ice use.
“A typical week is looking like 72 hours for winter prime, which runs from Thanksgiving weekend to March break,” said Adam. “Last year during winter prime, there were times the lights were off and the building was empty.”
Adam said the Town of New Glasgow showed great leadership in closing the JBM and subsidizing the cost difference in ice rentals between the JBM and Wellness Centre. The financial situation is looking a lot better.
“We’ve had to redo the budget since the JBM closed,” he said. “There will still be a deficit, but it will be much less, especially if a spring hockey program takes off.”
In Pictou County council on Oct. 21, Warden Ronnie Baillie said he hopes the closure of the JBM would make a big difference in the Wellness Centre’s bottom line.
“About 82-83 per cent of the ice is booked,” said Baillie. “We were running at around 40 per cent.”
Baillie noted that the Wellness Centre’s books are looked at every month to see if things can be cut or done more efficiently.
“We constantly look at cost cutting, power bills, keeping salaries and canteen costs down and promote as much as we can,” he said.
Things aren’t quite as positive as some of the other rinks in the county.
In Westville, rink manager Colin Dorrington said things aren’t too bad but there’s cause for concern.
“Some teams have left us to go elsewhere which has amounted to a loss of five hours of ice time a week in some cases,” he said. “We’ll be OK, but we may have to pinch pennies here and there.”
Trenton Rink, which received $50,000 from the province for repairs, has lost a few users coming into the season.
“We’ve managed to fill the ice,” said rink manager Darryl Marcott. “We’re looking at 55 hours a week, up from 51 hours last year.”
He noted the addition of the North Nova Education Centre boys hockey team to the rink, where they’ll join the girls team, has been a great boost.
Randy Sullivan, rink manager at the Hector Arena in Pictou, estimates that ice times are up a couple of hours a week.
“We had our first minor hockey game two nights ago, which is always exciting,” said Sullivan. “It’s looking like about 41 hours a week not including adult times and birthday parties. We’re up a couple hours.”
When the Wellness Centre was first proposed, a feasibility study said that Pictou County could only support six ice surfaces.
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