Athletes, parents protest Pepsi Centre rate increase

Nearly 100 people gathered at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook on Tuesday to protest a possible rate increase at the complex.
Athletes and parents gathered outside Corner Brook City Hall on Tuesday to protest proposed rate increases at the Pepsi Centre. (CBC)

Nearly 100 people gathered at the Pepsi Centre in Corner Brook Tuesday to protest a possible rate increase at the complex.

Parents and organizations say a proposed rate increase of nearly 15 per cent in rental fees will likely force some families out of sports.

Riley Rafferty, 13, has been circulating a petition and gathering signatures opposed to the rate increase.

"[I] stand up against the Pepsi Centre raising the prices up because it's crazy," the young hockey player said.

Riley Rafferty, 13, says he thinks the increased rates at the Pepsi Centre over the last few years have been too high. (CBC)

"Over the last three years, the prices have went up over 50 per cent and now they are going to start charging people for walking around the stadium, going to raise the price up more for hockey [and] figure skating."

Minor hockey is a regular user of the facilities, but there is also recreational hockey, broomball, figure skating, as well as the province's only speed skating club.

Sharon Karn, president of Humber Valley Speed Skating, said the group will no doubt lose members if the centre raises its fees again.

"Last year due to ice rental fees increases, we increased our membership fees by $50 [and] we lost members we couldn’t afford to lose," she said.

"We can't increase the fees again this year — our members just can't afford it."

The extra cost of membership will fall to parents like Sheri George, the mother of three hockey players.

"It's for everybody — it's not just ones in hockey. We want to try and get people out here, so, you know, if it increases kids won't be able to enjoy it so we have to do something about it and that’s why I am here — to help out wherever I can," George said.

Increased operating costs means higher rates

The City of Corner Brook owns the Pepsi Centre, but Western Sports Entertainment runs the facility and says the centre is losing money.

Western Sports Entertainment chair Allan Kendall said the cost of running the centre has gone up steadily over the last few years and added the centre has been forced to increase rates to continue operating the facility.

"It's not that we're sitting back and sitting on our laurels and trying to run the centre based upon the pocket books of the moms and dads of the various ice sporting associations," Kendall said.

"We are trying to create other revenues, but the hard fact reality is that we're trying to balance the budget. We're not allowed to run into a deficit and we just need to cover the costs." 

Kendall said the centre has been losing clients who utilize meeting rooms and conference areas, costing the company some serious revenue.

"While we're waiting and trying to assess new opportunities for revenue and how to do we bring more conferences how do we utilize the centre better, we still have to balance the budget, so we do have to look at rates unfortunately," he said.

The centre's budget is scheduled to be finalized by Sept. 1.