Self-isolation requirements leading to cancelled ice times are wreaking havoc on the City of Airdrie’s scheduling system for its indoor arenas.
At a regular Airdrie City council meeting Nov. 16, Brad Anderson, manager of Genesis Place Recreation Centre, said many local hockey teams and other sport user groups have cancelled pre-booked ice times at the Ron Ebbesen Arena, Plainsmen Arena or Genesis Place on short notice this fall. Many of the cancellations are due to the two-week isolation period teams have to endure when there is a positive COVID-19 case or close contact of a positive case within their cohort, he added.
“This is already having a large impact on returned space due to teams and individuals not being allowed to play,” he said.
According to Anderson, at least 10 Airdrie hockey teams have been required to self-isolate this fall, resulting in last-minute cancellations of their ice times. He added more than 70 hours of pre-booked ice, at a cost of approximately $15,000, have been returned on short notice this season because of cancelled games or practice sessions.
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The issue has led the Airdrie Minor Hockey Hockey Association (AMHA) – the arenas' largest user group – to request the City waive its rental cancellation clause requiring 30 days’ notice, Anderson said.
“With the onset of the global pandemic, Airdrie’s user groups are requesting relief from this policy due to two factors – scheduling complexities within regional mini-leagues and short-notice cancellations required for teams and individuals required to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 or being in close contact with a confirmed case,” Anderson said.
However, waiving the 30-day cancellation fee would have a substantial financial impact on the City, he said. The total cost to Airdrie’s general tax base could be up to $250,000 over the course of the winter, considering all user groups that use the City’s facilities.
“This number is very rough and based on the season continuing in the same manner as late October and early November,” he said. “If case counts continue to rise and more individuals and teams are forced to isolate, this number could be much higher.”
Council spent nearly an hour discussing various options to address the impact of last-minute cancellations, including a cost-sharing agreement between sport user groups and the City. Other options included shifting to a 14-day cancellation policy, waiving the 30-day cancellation fee or maintaining the status quo.
“We can’t absorb it all into the tax base,” Coun. Al Jones said. “I think a shared responsibility, as far as trying to find someone else to take up those times that were maybe given up due to cancellations [would be best].”
Coun. Candice Kolson asked if any of the impacted user groups have specifically said if and how they would reinvest any costs they are reimbursed should the City decided to waive the cancellation fee.
Anderson said some user groups have indicated they could extend their winter season into the spring or return some of the money to parents, either in the form of a refund or credit toward registration for future seasons.
“I think if this suspension of programming and play drags on for more than just two weeks and into December, some of the boards are looking at different ways of how they can apply credits back to the accounts of some participants,” Anderson said. “I know those [discussions] are happening behind closed doors, and I won’t talk about which user groups specifically, but I think there is pressure for some of the user groups to look for that and I think parents are requesting that.”
Council ultimately approved a motion to maintain the current policy for the next 30 days, but have the topic return at the Dec. 21 regular meeting for further debate. The motion carried unanimously.