Fernie Arena forfeits spring season
By Erin Knutson
The Fernie Memorial Arena is closing at the end of its regular season (Apr. 3) following extended COVID-19 restrictions. The province meted out strict measures in its updated provincial health order (PHO), refocusing standard operations this time of year.
The City of Fernie’s unanimous decision (Feb. 8) to close the facility for the spring season was based on financial considerations.
According to a staff report provided to council by Brett Logan parks, facility, and recreation manager, operating costs at the arena far exceed the gains of staying open with limited ice use.
“While the operation of the arena does support council’s priority of enriching community life, as identified in council’s strategic plan, the cost of extending spring ice is significant and will require reductions in service levels in other areas.”
With continued restrictions firmly in place, the arena was left with few options after organizations, and rink users, including the Fernie Curling Club, forfeited their spring season.
Strain to the facility was further compounded this year with the suspension of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) 2020/21 season, leaving the arena in a delicate position.
Logan’s report states that operational costs would sit at $57,000 to keep the doors open at reduced capacity. He recommended closing the facility to prevent massive financial losses while allowing the city to focus on its upcoming outdoor season.
His report reflected the actions taken by neighbouring municipalities to mitigate the situation.
“Staff have recently communicated with neighbouring municipalities who are looking to coordinate the date of closure of their arenas earlier than usual (mid to late March) to save on expenses and operating costs. Some are considering closing as early as February, following the scheduled PHO update.”