My broken record impression - Denny Scott editorial
I’m not a fan of repeating myself within the same year with a column, but sometimes it's warranted and, after North Huron Township Council’s Monday night meeting, I feel like I do need to address something that I wrote about just four months ago: the importance of minor sports to a community.
On Monday night, North Huron was asked to put the ice in at the North Huron Wescast Community Complex in September instead of October to better accommodate a number of rental groups, including Wingham Minor Hockey and the Wingham Ironmen.
Ignoring the fact that council was told the request likely couldn’t be fulfilled due to an ongoing staff shortage that has lingered for half a year now, I was again shocked that no one spoke about the economic spin-off of having the arena’s ice surface open. This was especially surprising since North Huron has both an economic development committee and an economic development officer.
Back in April, I said that the number of people who would attend a weekly or bi-weekly Ironmen game (which is typically a three-digit integer) could have a huge impact on businesses in Wingham, especially those at the south end of the community. If
you have more than 100 people lining up for a hockey game in an arena without a concession booth, they’re going to turn to the McDonald’s plaza or the Tim Hortons plaza for a drink during the game and possibly local restaurants before and after the game for something to eat. Having hundreds of people moving through the community to watch those games is a no-brainer as far as economic development goes.
Now, we’re not talking about one team with a game or two per week, we’re talking about dozens of teams, many of which will have at least as many parents in attendance as there are players, coming to the arena.
Sure, a couple dozen parents may not seem like a huge economic driver, but that’s per team and, ignoring the Ironmen and the Wingham Figure Skating Club (just because I don’t have numbers for them) the Wingham Minor Hockey Association is anticipating at least 21 operational teams this year.
Let’s assume a few practices a night before the seasons start, and maybe half a dozen on Saturday and Sunday, to make up
the more-than 30 hours that the association will need per week in September. That’s 27 ice times with, as an estimate, an average of 18 parents involved each time. That means that, since there isn’t a concession booth in the arena, 486 grandparents/ parents/guardians per week will be going into the arena who might need a coffee at Tim Hortons or McDonald’s (some people, like my dad, say their coffee is better).
And sure, that’s just shy of $1,000 in sales per week for coffee alone, which is a drop in the bucket compared to the $36,000 it will cost to put the ice in, but that’s just the low-hanging fruit as far as the spin-off is concerned.
After practices, parents may want to buy dinner instead of rushing home to make it and, I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but a family of four eating at McDonald’s can pretty quickly get up to $50. Heck, my family of three, if we get desserts, is already getting up there. Parents of some of the older players who don’t need to stay and watch every practice, especially those who don’t live in town, may also take advantage of the fact that they’re in Wingham with downtime and do some shopping, and
I’m not just talking about getting food for the week at the nearby grocery stores or getting new laces, tape and other hockey staples from a downtown store. Wingham is home to pretty much every business imaginable, sometimes with three or four locations serving one industry, and that synergy of being in town with an hour to kill might make the difference between someone shopping in Wingham and someone heading to Wal-Mart in Goderich for a one-stop-shopping solution.
I could, once again, cite studies that have shown that hockey generates tens of thousands of dollars in spin-off revenue, especially in rural communities, but like I said, I don’t want to repeat things if I don’t have to.
The spin-off might not equal the $36,000 but, as Deputy-Reeve Trevor Seip pointed out, recreation isn’t a moneymaker, it’s a service. To expand on that, it’s not just a service for the families taking advantage of it, it’s a service to the businesses that benefit from people being in town.
So while I’m not necessarily surprised about the decision council made, to look at opening a half month earlier instead of a full month and review the policy that dictates when ice goes in, I am shocked that, outside of a single remark from the Wingham Minor Hockey Association representative, no one talked about the spin-off that opening the arena early would provide. That’s the kind of information that should always be considered when looking at expenses like this.