British Columbia

Prince George arenas closed indefinitely due to city's financial situation

Arenas in Prince George, B.C., are closed indefinitely due to the unforeseen financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New hockey club launched hours before announcement

Arenas in Prince George, B.C., will remain closed until further notice as the city considers how to recover from significant financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Arenas in Prince George, B.C., are closed indefinitely due to the unforeseen financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic, the city estimates it has lost about $1 million per month and, as a result, could be facing a budget shortfall of $9 million in 2021.

On July 27, council is set to discuss ways of dealing with its financial struggles and, in the meantime, is announcing the continuation of arena closures. 

Arenas were initially set to reopen Aug. 4, but, since revenues from city-run arenas have been so severely impacted by the pandemic, it's not going to happen.

"Ongoing requirements related to physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitization and capping attendance at 50 would negatively affect arena usage and operations," the city said in a news release. 

Even in a regular year, the city says arenas and other civic facilities, like pools, do not come close to making money but are a service local governments provide their communities, with the revenue generated going toward operating costs. 

And it says user fees aren't enough to offset the money lost to arena events that were cancelled this year. 

Just hours before the news of the closure, Jessie Sprague announced the formation of a new hockey club in Prince George.

It was started to give hockey players a chance to get on the ice after their season ended early this year.

Sprague had quietly opened up registration for camps Monday and already had 60 spaces filled. She refunded that money Tuesday.

"I'm just so frustrated," she told CBC's Andrew Kurjata. "Lots of people have put a lot of time and effort into trying to get things going."

Her 14-year-old daughter plays hockey and returned to the ice one week before the arenas were closed in March. Now, it's uncertain when she'll get to skate again.

"She's feeling kind of sad about it, but yeah, this is frustrating."

Though the closure is related to the costs associated with keeping arenas running, she said if the city could flood one rink, she's certain that between hockey programs and figure skating, they would be able to fill that ice with skaters 24 hours a day.

"Between the interests of so many groups, I just don't see how we couldn't make it happen."

With files from Andrew Kurjata

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