City concerned about financial impact of loss of community sports

By Kirk Winter

Director of Community Services Craig Shanks is keeping an eye on the ever-lengthening list of local sporting groups that are suspending or restructuring play for the 2020 summer season and the 2020-2021 winter season.

His department, responsible for public spaces, is already facing a reduction in revenue of $1.7 million because of pandemic-inspired cancellations and things continue to look bleak as soccer, figure skating and hockey struggle with making tough decisions based on player and parent safety.

The Kawartha Lakes Soccer Club announced that it is cancelling the remainder of its 2020 outdoor season that would have run July, August, September and October because of concerns over the COVID pandemic.

Ken Louie, long time KLSC treasurer, reports that in a typical season the club pays over $9,000 in field rentals to the city.

In a regular season, the KLSC fields over a dozen youth rep teams, at least six men and 10 women’s recreational teams and a burgeoning over-35 program with four teams and a mixed fall program for adults with 4-6 teams.

A press release from the soccer club states, “Our local district, in consultation with its entire member clubs, has unanimously decided to cancel the outdoor 2020 soccer season effective immediately. This will affect …all adult leagues in our district, and youth clubs such as Kawartha Lakes Soccer Club.”

“This is a disappointing day for the KLSC,” the release says, “since our mandate is to promote and provide soccer programs in our community, however we believe that this is the correct decision at this time. Over the past few weeks it has become apparent that we cannot guarantee the health and safety of our members…and we cannot adequately protect the club from liability that would cripple our organization financially.”

Shanks shares that the cancellations of field and diamond bookings could cost the city “in the range of $90,000 this summer.”

When asked about impacts on staffing with few summer sports occurring, Shanks said, “The city hasn’t called back all their staff yet. We are getting there. We are only calling back staff that we know we require. Our intent is not to call them back and re-lay them off.”

“The bulk of park and field maintenance is done by student staff,” he added, “and because of the anticipated reduced levels of service we will not be hiring any summer student staff.”

With soccer, youth baseball and youth lacrosse now shuttered for the spring and summer of 2020, Kawartha Lakes, already battling a $3.2 million city wide operating deficit could be looking at that number increasing if winter sports see a significant reduction in bookings.

Informed speculation is circulating in the organized hockey community that suggests hockey may not restart until January 1, 2021 potentially costing Kawartha Lakes four full months of lucrative ice rental revenue.

Shanks is very concerned about that scenario saying, “Arena ice rental fees generate $1.5 million for the city.”

One Peterborough-based hockey executive shared the following on the condition of anonymity.

“The precedent for a drastic re-imaging of this year’s hockey season has already begun. The cancellation of summer hockey has already occurred.”

“We need in central Ontario to make decisions about tryouts and the beginning of our seasons within weeks. At least locally there is no consensus, as many are pushing back at the possibility of a late start or complete cancellation of hockey this year,” the hockey executive says.

If hockey reduces its season or shuts down for 2020-2021, the economic impacts will be felt by both the municipalities and the private sector.

The source is also concerned the hospitality industry will also take another hit without organized sports.

Shanks confirms the possibility of a very late start to the actual hockey season and commencement of figure skating competitions. He believes that September through December there will be some limited bookings for practices, which have recently been cleared by the province to move forward.

He has heard also that assuming there is not a second outbreak of COVID-19 , ice rentals may return to some level of normalcy starting January 1, 2021.

Shanks said that so far arena staff have not been called back to work as many work other jobs in the off-season, but their status will certainly be impacted by what the arena booking season is going to look like for 2020-2021.

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