The Greater Toronto Hockey League (GTHL) has scrapped its plan to implement a one-time gate fee next season, which would have forced parents to pay up to $520 in extra registration fees before the start of the year.
Instead, the gate fee will continue to be paid at the arena during games and will be raised from $5 to $6 for the 2009-10 season. All GTHL players and most spectators will have to pay the fee as they enter an arena for a game.
The decision came after an extensive closed-door meeting Tuesday night.
GTHL executive director Scott Oakman said that from his point of view, the majority of parents actually supported the one-time fee.
But there were concerns that it might cause a few people — like single-parent families and those with multiple kids in hockey — some major headaches.
"We didn't want to place undue hardship on them," he said. "The clubs sought feedback from the parents, and [the clubs] were most concerned with [parents] who were negatively impacted by [the increase]."
Gate fee frozen for five years
In 2004, the league promised parents it would freeze the gate fee at $5 for the next five years. The GTHL kept the promise, but it burned through its gate stabilization fund and expects to wind up $400,000 in the red this season.
The proposed one-time registration fee was expected to add another $300,000 to the GTHL's operating budget for 2009-10. Oakman hopes that the new plan will yield the same return just over a longer period.
"That's yet to be seen, [but] we're hoping that it does," he said. "On paper, we're certainly able to do that, based on our attendance from this current season."
But Oakman says the fee won't sustain the GTHL past the 2009-10 season.
"I don't think the $6 will carry us beyond the next year, depending on what attendance is like," he said. "It's only a one-year solution, and we're going to have to generate some new thoughts and ideas [moving forward]."
To that end, the GTHL has created a task force dedicated to figuring out ways to balance the league's books.
"There's been some terrific ideas brought up already," Oakman said. "If you can save parents any money at all, it needs to be considered a success."