Owners of the Campbell River Storm say the hockey club is “bleeding” financially and the team’s future may be in jeopardy unless changes are made.
Kevin Spooner and wife Linda have appealed to the Strathcona Regional District help to keep the team afloat.
“The financial burdens of operating this community-minded hockey club are substantial,” Spooner revealed in a letter to the regional district. “While Linda and I did not venture in to this ownership to make money, we certainly did not anticipate the enormous costs, and losses, either. We cannot continue to operate in the red, and without some restructure of our rental agreement we will be forced to cease operations by December 2012. This would be a blow to us personally, the community and of course, the players themselves who have a vested interest and have made many sacrifices to follow their dreams.”
Spooner, who purchased the Storm in early 2011, acknowledged it was never his intention to “turn the Campbell River Storm into a profit-generating franchise but rather, to stop the financial bleeding.”
The Spooners are asking the regional district, which governs operations at Strathcona Gardens, for help in reducing its expenses. The club is asking to have its dressing room rental fee eliminated – a fee that three teams (Oceanside, Nanaimo, and Saanich) in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League don’t pay. The Storm pay $454 per month for exclusive dressing room access while the Kerry Park Islanders pay $408 per month, the Victoria Cougars pay $192 each month and the Westshore Wolves pay a whopping $975 per week, which also includes ice rental fees. The Comox Valley Glacier Kings pay $63 per month but do not have exclusive access and share the dressing room with the public.
“We appreciate the history behind the initial need to impose a rental fee, but are at a loss as to why this fee is still being charged to us,” Spooner said. “We would request to have this rental fee negated as it is our understanding that dressing rooms are provided with an ice user rental fee. We would also seek to have any taxes we have paid on the room be refunded and that this tax no longer be applied to us as renters, in that we are not the owners.”
Spooner is also asking the regional district to consider allowing the team access to the ice surface, rink boards, banner space, iron pillars and stair risers in Rod Brind’Amour Arena for advertising. Spooner is also proposing the Storm be considered as preferred users and be charged an ice rental rate comparable to that of minor hockey. Further, Spooner is asking to be reimbursed $35,669 that was spent on renovating the dressing room.
“These expenses, which in our opinion are the responsibility of the regional district, greatly affected our bottom line and our ability to remain viable,” he said. “This renovation was a necessary improvement based on the health and safety of both players and team staff.”
Yves Bienvenu, manager of facility services at Strathcona Gardens, said fees and charges imposed on the Storm have remained constant over the past four to five years despite an expansion of advertising within the arena during the past two seasons. The Storm have also set up a beer garden in the mezzanine area above the ice at no extra charge. As for the dressing room improvements, Bienvenu said the work was requested by the Spooners in the spring of 2011.
“The ownership pointed out areas that needed to be dealt with as part of the facilities regular upkeep and maintenance but also wanted to explore the options of making alterations and renovations to the dressing room,” he said. “Strathcona Gardens agreed to undertake the necessary housekeeping and maintenance repairs, however, any new renovations or alterations would be at the expense of the ownership.”
At a Strathcona Gardens Commission meeting Oct. 10, after hearing a presentation from Storm governor Wes Roed who read Spooner’s letter, the board directed regional district staff to come back with a report on options for accommodating the Storm.