Recreation revenue declines in wake of bad weather, bad economy

West Shore Parks and Recreation expects to tighten its belt next year after seeing revenues shrink as families reduce spending

West Shore Parks and Recreation expects to tighten its belt next year after seeing revenues shrink as families reduce spending.

Lousy weather, full-day kindergarten and the new ice arena in Langford have conspired to gouge key sources of revenue at the public complex. On top of that, there are signs people are cutting discretionary spending, such as attending sports games.

Les Bjola, chair of the West Shore recreation board of directors, said recreation spending is a fair barometer of the economy. Noticeably poor attendance at Shamrocks lacrosse during the finals, for one, he said, is a sign of things to come.

“The reality is the global economy effects us. Discretionary income is being pulled back. The first thing to go is sports,” Bjola told the board of directors, who represent the five West Shore municipalities. “The budget will be exceptionally difficult this year. These are lean times we are entering.”

Rec centre administrator Linda Barnes stressed the operating budget is not in dire straights – revenues are down, but so are expenses. The facility is about 20 per cent under projected income for the first half of the year, but it scaled back staff time and maintenance as needed. The operations budget has a $150,000 surplus for the first half of the year.

“The organization is in a better place that it’s been in a long time,” Barnes said. “But this is not a big expansion time. We are doing good job maintaining what we have. It’s about keeping a high-quality status quo.”

Some of the budget hits, such as kids moving to full-day kindergarten and teams moving to Westhills ice arena, were known a few years out, but officials say it’s hard to immediately recover that lost revenue.

Barnes doesn’t expect ice time at Juan de Fuca or Bear Mountain arenas to sit unused for long. But having hundreds of tots who used to attend half-day programs at the rec centre is a tougher hole to fill. To some extent, after school programs are helping ease the pain.

“Fully day kindergarten is a big bite. We operated a lot of programs during the day for kids,” she said. “It’s about a $50,000 revenue loss. It’s significant.”

Damp and rainy weather in the spring and first half of summer also cut into revenues. Teams rented far fewer fields and parents were reluctant to send kids to summer camps, a trend seen at rec centres across the region. West Shore recreation reduced staff and maintenance costs to compensate.

“Parents weren’t putting their kids into early summer programs. It didn’t feel like summer,” Barnes said. “Programs suffered because of the cool and terrible weather. There is stuff that is out of our control.”

After the weight room expansion, the addition to the seniors activity building, and upgrades to the parking lot, capital spending will likely be ramped down in the future. The cracked foundation under the Juan de Fuca rink, for one, is being monitored but won’t be repaired in 2012.

As recommended in a recent capital planning consultant report, the rec centre expects to concentrate on maintenance to keeping existing facilities in working order. Barnes also noted any increase to user fees or rates on ice or field time is unlikely. Money is still coming in – budgeting just needs to be more conservative.

“The pool, the weight room and Bear Mountain are making significant money, just not as significant as the amount projected for this year,” Barnes said. “But its not so much doom and gloom. We are still making money, just not as much as expected.”


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