New Brunswick

Saint John relents on recreation card after hotel association steps in

Saint John Mayor Don Darling says the city will not be enforcing the recreation card program for this winter after the Saint John Hotel Association agreed to cover the costs. 

Group's donation let's city drop plan to enforce card rule this hockey season

The Saint John Hotel Association has stepped in with a sponsorship so the City of Saint John won't have to enforce a new recreation card program for the winter season for non-residents. (PhotoStock10/Shutterstock)

Saint John Mayor Don Darling says the city will not enforce its new recreation card program this winter after the Saint John Hotel Association agreed to cover the costs. 

Non-residents were expected to pay $200 plus HST to make use of the city's arenas during the 2019-2020 season, but some users were upset about that decision. 

Earlier this week, the city promised to start spot checks for the cards in December. People who didn't have them could have been fined.

On Friday, however, the city announced it was getting $60,000 from the hotel association.

Paulette Hicks, the president of the hotel association, said she hopes the group's support will give the city and its neighbours time to resolve the contentious issue of how to share costs of arenas that people from more than one municipality use.

"We just felt that this is somewhere where we could step in and invest, you know, a bit of runway for people to figure this out. We felt that that was the opportunity so we came forward."

City council voted in June to implement the recreation card program after nine municipalities refused to commit to a regional funding model for the local arenas before the May 1 deadline. According to a report prepared by city staff, it costs the city $380,000 per year to maintain the rinks for the 1,100 non-residents who use them on a regular basis.

At the time, the city said the $200 fee wouldn't cover the entire deficit but would recoup roughly 52 per cent of operating costs. 

Now this will be covered by the hotel association in what Darling described as a sponsorship. 

"That allows us to get back to the bigger discussion and the potential of the more sustainable option," Darling said. "The rec card was where we arrived at by default."

The mayor added that all the partners in the region have signalled a desire to get back to the table and find a way forward through a cost-sharing program. 

Darling said some city councillors and staff were concerned about having to enforce the card requirement.

Anyone who has already purchased a card will be contacted by the city about a refund. 

With files from Connell Smith

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