FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – An institution in the local hockey community has had to cancel their annual event due to a rate increase in the City of Fort St. John’s ice rental fees.
Fort St. John native Brad Fast is a former captain of Michigan State University’s Spartans hockey team before playing in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes, and has helped the run the North Peace Alumni Hockey School in the Energetic City for the past eleven years. Fast says that the hockey school for players aged 8 and up is the least-expensive hockey school in the country, with a per-player cost of $325.00 in 2015. Fast says that he offers a clinic that is affordable for all hockey players in the Fort St. John area as a way of giving back to the community, and that they have never turned down a player from participating.
Speaking at Monday’s council meeting over the phone yesterday, Fast addressed several changes implemented by the city since last year. He said that changes in ice rental rates that were implemented by the city means that his organisation, which is a commercial enterprise, has had their ice fees increased by 400% since last year. According to Fast, that increase means that in order to sustain the program, the per-player cost for the clinic would increase by $175.00, which is a 50% increase.
In addition, Fast says that the city has changed the dates of ice availability, which now conflict with the instructors’ schedules. The third issue that he raised was the city’s new policy of requiring the school pay 50% of the ice fees sixty days prior to the clinics. He says that the vast majority of participants register for the clinic in the two weeks prior, which would result in his organisation having to front a large sum.
Mayor Lori Ackerman says that by law, Fort St. John is unable to offer preferential treatment in rental rates to individual for-profit businesses. Ackerman added that the city currently looking at a Parks & Recreation Master Plan, a report on which is due from city administration at the next scheduled council meeting on June 27th, at which point the issue will next be looked at by council.