The Alberni Valley Bulldogs want the city to reduce their ice rental fee by 50 per cent reduction to help the team balance its budget, business manager Lucas Banton said.
Banton made the request at council’s April 29 meeting. Council will consider the request for its first meeting in May.
According to Banton, the Port Alberni Junior Hockey Society (PAJHS), which owns the team, pays $55,000 per year for ice rental and wants it halved to $25,000 per year for the next two years.
The team is also behind on paying its ice rental fees this year.
City officials wouldn’t disclose the amount owed, saying the amount would be revealed before council’s next meeting in May.
But sources close to the matter told the News that the amount is approximately $46,000.
If council agrees to halving the team’s ice rental fee, the move would allow the team time to cultivate corporate sponsorships to help make up the shortfall, Banton said. The PAJHS bought the team in 2012 from the Okanagan Hockey School, The See Group of Companies and Doctor David Ness.
The PAJHS owns 100 per cent of the shares, and is operated by a seven-person board of directors. The business side operates as a separate entity, Banton said.
“This is a difficult business model to work in,” he said. “The rising costs of running a BCHL hockey team have risen faster than the teams corporate sponsorships and ticket prices.”
According to Banton, the team is dealing with a budget crunch.
Earlier in the team’s presentation, PAJHS official Bob Cole said the new group was hobbled by the fact that it started with a larger shortfall than they thought. Cole didn’t disclose how much of a shortfall but said that “we were not aware of that when we started.”
For its part, the team has pared its budget to the bone.
It provides only the basic meals to players, places as many players as possible into rooms to save on room costs and it dispensed with its internal cellphones, Banton said. “We even make sure that we make a profit on player trades.”
The moves didn’t pare the bottom line down enough, though. “We wanted to make sure we did everything possible on our end to get costs down before we approached the city,” Banton said.
The team faces a challenges on a couple of fronts, he said.
One, unlike privately owned teams, they don’t have an owner to go to who can cover budget shortfalls; community-owned teams have to balance their budgets.
As well, the Bulldogs rely on 6,000 to 7,000 volunteers hours to run every year. “There’s not a lot of money to run a business operation,” Banton said.
The team needs two years for rent reduction so it can grow out the number of corporate sponsors.
Relationships need to be cultivated and business cases must be made that show benefits, deliverables and value. “It takes a great deal of work to bring those in,” he said.
Coun. Jack McLeman was blunt in his assessment. “If you’re not making money then you can’t keep it going,” he said.
“There’s no deep pockets around here.”