Corner Brook Mayor Neville Greeley says it’s time people outside the city help support operating costs of sporting facilities such as the Pepsi Centre.
The idea of regionalization with respect to infrastructure costs is being discussed more frequently throughout the province.
Smaller municipalities are struggling to maintain and upgrade such services, and a shared system is considered the prudent solution. Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador is leading discussions on this issue.
The regional facility, built for the 1999 Canada Winter Games, now costs Corner Brook taxpayers $850,000 annually by way of an operating grant.
Facility serves region
However, as pointed out by the mayor, users of the facility reach far beyond the boundaries of the city.
“If somebody is living in Massey Drive or Steady Brook or Hughes Brook or Mount Moriah, all their children are using that facility, yet the property taxes from those municipalities do not contribute five cents toward the operating grant,” Greeley said.
User groups are bracing for another rental rate hike this September following 10 per cent fee increases in each of the past two years.
According to Greeley, one municipality should not shoulder the financial burden for a regional facility.
The change must begin with a willingness of the neighbouring municipal representatives and their people to meet and discuss a resolve, he said.
An example of this regional sharing takes place in Stephenville, where the Town of Kippens contributes a grant toward the operating costs of the pool.
With an election approaching in the fall, Greeley said this should be a priority for new councils throughout the region.
Loss of tenant hurt
The mayor agrees the Pepsi Centre, managed by Western Sports and Entertainment, took a hit with the loss of its major tenant, the Corner Brook Royals. But he said the costs of operating the facility have continued to climb no matter who managed the facility.
It has been the same struggle to attract entertainers and generate revenue in Corner Brook regardless of who is running the centre, he added.
“This is just one more example of why regionalizing some things makes perfect sense,” Greeley said. “All the infrastructure is currently in place to be able to meet the demands of the users that are there. We just need to equitably distribute the operating costs of that.”