Penny wise and selling fries: How the Straits Arena stays open without municipal backing

A hockey rink on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula is bucking the trend by staying open and being self-sufficient — without being run by a town.

Straits Arena in St. Barbe thinks outside the box to make cash, watches spending closely

The Straits Arena in St. Barbe is run completely by a volunteer association, and has no regular financial backing from a community. (Facebook/Straits Arena)

A hockey rink on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula is bucking the trend by staying open and being self-sufficient — without being run by a town.

You have to run these places as if you own it yourself.- Oz Gould

The Straits Arena in St. Barbe, run by the Straits Arena Association, used to be owned by the towns of Bird Cove and Anchor Point, but has been independently run by volunteers since 1999.

"Our money is raised at the door through canteen sales, hockey registration and rentals," said manager Oz Gould. "So that's how we survive."

The Straits Arena, seen here in March 2014, may look like an isolated building with very little activity, but the facility hosts a variety of users all year long, including two popular hockey tournaments every winter. (Twitter/@MitchelmoreMHA)

Gould is one of two paid employees at the arena, the other being a part-time maintenance worker.

He said the arena has managed to stay open all these years by finding a variety of revenue streams. Two senior men's hockey tournaments in December and February are a huge draw for the arena and a big cash cow for the association.

It also brings in money through fees from minor hockey and figure skating, 30 advertisement spaces inside the rink as well as rent from trucking companies that use the parking lot during the summer and from a local shrimp plant that stores its equipment there from April to September.

"We have to do it," Gould said. "If anything goes wrong at the arena we can't just go to the town and look for some money. We have to look for the money and pay for it ourselves."

Figure skating rentals and advertising space are just two of the many revenue streams the Straits Arena has to keep the facility up and running. (Facebook/Straits Arena)

While it doesn't get regular government funding, Gould said the association doesn't hesitate to apply for public grants for infrastructure, heating rebates and more.

"Wherever there's a dollar to get we will try to get it," he said.

Mostly, though, it's creative thinking, a dedicated group of more than 60 volunteers and — perhaps most important — running a tight ship that keeps the Straits Arena open year after year.

We try to keep tabs on everything.- Oz Gould

An example of that is how Gould checks the electrical meter on the building daily to see if there is a heater left on or some other energy drain that could rack up the facility's power bill.

"I think you have to run these places as if you own it yourself. You have to be very penny wise, and you have to be very conservative how you use energy like hydro. You have to watch it like a hawk," he said.

"We have to be very diligent in how we operate it. We try to keep tabs on everything."

With files from the Corner Brook Morning Show