Less than a week before the Norman Northstars hit the ice for their 2018−19 home opener, the City of Thompson entered into a new one-year facility rental agreement with the midget AAA hockey club.
Thompson city council voted unanimously Oct. 1 to approve this agreement, which includes a 2.5 per cent increase over the current rental rates, which haven't risen since 2015.
However, the team’s use of the Mary Fenske Boardroom will no longer be included in the game day rate, and they will have to pay half of the normal rental rate to use it.
The one-year renewal fell short of Northstars’s president Brad Salamandyk’s original request for a five-year contract with no rental rate increases until 2023.
Salamandyk wrote that this would be key to maintaining the Northstars’ economic feasibility, since the team relies on the city to provide access to their facilities at the Thompson Regional Community Centre for games, practices and team meetings.
“The Norman Northstars have been an important part of the community for the last 33 years,” Salamandyk wrote in a July 7 letter to the recreation and community services committee. “We believe that this proposal is an integral part of our strategy to continue our organization’s successes for the next 30 years.”
Carol Taylor, the director of recreation, parks and culture, said she decided against recommending a five-year contract since she didn’t want to step on the toes of the next council, which will be voted into office Oct. 24.
Taylor also said that if the future council decided not to hold the rates, and felt they should be paying the current fees, the Northstars would experience a significant rate shock.
“I was at the meeting where this was decided and it was very fair based on what our standards are,” said deputy mayor Colleen Smook, who served as chairperson for this resolution after Mayor Dennis Fenske declared a conflict of interest due to being a Northstars’ season ticket holder. “And I think having only the one-year contract gives the next council a chance to look at different options for the hockey team.”
Coun. Kathy Valentino also declared a conflict of interest for this resolution and did not vote.
Coun. Penny Byer came out in favour of this new one-year agreement, but said that the next council should take a closer look at the Northstars’ contributions to the community at large when it comes time to negotiate terms.
“I think the time has drawn to an end where we just carte blanche give special rates,” said Byer. “My rationale is we have a lot of youth at risk and I think in future there should be a bit of trade-off. So in this case, for a percentage of savings, perhaps an hour a week or two hours a week they can provide free coaching to youth at risk, provide something back to the community so that there’s a give and take here.”
The Northstars’ first home series of the 2018−19 season will take place at the C.A. Nesbitt Arena Oct. 6−7, where they will face the Winnipeg Bruins.