The Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sport Centre (SLSFSC) updated its fee structure in October 2019, and community response to the new prices has been varied.
Prior to Oct. 15, 2019, the Cochrane-based recreation facility charged separate fees for its various amenities – which includes a skating rink, curling rink, fitness centre, aquatic centre, indoor soccer field, gymnastics centre and climbing wall. Drop-in rates for individual amenities ranged from $3 to $12.
Now, drop-in rates allow participants to use the entire venue, instead of just one specific amenity. As a result, most of the fees have increased, outside of monthly memberships.
The drop-in rate for a child aged two to 12 is $8 per day, while youths aged 13 to 22 pay $10 and adults aged 23 to 59 pay $15. Seniors 60 and older pay $10, while families of two adults with unlimited dependents up to age 22 pay $25.
Rocky View County resident Kim Knox said her mother used to take her two children skating at SLSFSC for just $3 each – a total cost of $9 – and was shocked Jan. 15 when the entry fee came to $26.
“It was a reasonable fee to pay $3 a person, but at $8 a child to take them skating, for what amounts to 30 or 40 minutes of them actually skating, it becomes unaffordable,” she said.
Knox added a day pass with two child add-ons to Westside Recreation Centre in Calgary would have cost her mother $20.
“It seems Spray Lake is a publicly-funded facility, so I was shocked they were charging more than what even a private facility charges, for fewer activities,” she said.
Michelle Everett, SLSFSC’s sales and marketing manager, said the consolidated fees were the result of a six-month process of comparing its membership and drop-in prices to other recreational multiplexes across the country.
“We didn’t just look at a couple of rec centres and think, ‘OK, we’re in line.’ We checked our prices against so many facilities,” she said. “This wasn’t done overnight – our care was for the community in making sure it was acceptable and affordable. We were careful in thinking how it would affect people.”
She added the facility’s previous payment system was complicated, and the majority of community feedback since the change has been positive. She added SLSFSC currently boasts about 6,300 members – an all-time high.
“We used to sell pool-only memberships and fitness-centre-only memberships,” she said. “Our menu was very big, clunky and complicated. We’ve made it very simple. You don’t have to go back to the desk every time you’re done an activity and want to do another one. You have freedom to do anything you want, and stay for the day.”
Knox disagreed, saying most visitors tend to go to SLSFSC for just one activity at a time.
“At Spray Lake, everything is restricted,” she said. “There are private facility bookings, swimming isn’t open all the time, skating isn’t open all the time, let alone all the other activities they claim you’re getting for this one drop-in price.”
Blair Felesky, the facility’s chief executive officer, said the new fees are meant to encourage people to buy a monthly membership, as it takes just three to four visits to pay for the cost of a monthly pass. He added monthly memberships are 13 per cent cheaper than they used to be and come with added perks, such as discounts on personal training, party packages and registered fitness programs.
“That’s really what we’ve tried to capture, and I think we’ve been successful doing it,” he said.
A monthly pass costs $29 for children aged two to 12, $39 for youths aged 13 to 22, $49 for adults aged 23 to 59 and $39 for seniors aged 60 and up. A family pass costs $99. The previous rates for facility-wide memberships ranged from $42 for youths aged two to 17, to $142 for families.
“When we launched these fees Oct. 15, , of course there was feedback that it was different – ‘I don’t use the fitness centre’ or ‘I only want to pay for the pool’ and that sort of thing,” he said. “We’re very sensitive to that. I think where we’re at is… for the last month or two, with the exception of some isolated feedback…there is an energy that is consistently good with the change that was implemented in October. It just took some time to absorb that change.”
Felesky added the adjustments were the first changes to the facility’s pay structure in more than two years.
“I don’t anticipate any significant swings beyond some inflationary component, forward-looking,” he said.
He added the facility’s long-term objective is to be seen not just as a recreation facility, but as a social and cultural hub in Cochrane.
“Our vision is, perhaps there’s a library on the main floor, and a social component to a gathering space,” he said. “Maybe an Internet lounge, plug-in stations, re-charge stations – [a place] where parents can drop their kids off for a hockey practice or curling lesson, and then go read in the library.”