Saint John recreation cards 'puts society back 100 years'
Both residents and non-residents must obtain a card, but only non-residents must pay for them
Saint John's new recreation card system is creating a divide between young hockey players, and driving people to rinks outside the city, a director of Hockey New Brunswick says.
"Kids are starting to notice in the dressing room who has a card and who doesn't have a card," said Chris Green, a member of the board of directors for Hockey New Brunswick.
"And that's not right. That puts our society back 100 years."
Councillors voted to implement a $200 fee for non-residents in June, when Quispamsis, Grand Bay-Westfield and other communities refused to commit to a regional funding model for local arenas.
Recreation cards, which became available in September, are now required for both residents and non-residents who use the rink, but only non-residents have to pay for them.
Tim O'Reilly, the city's deputy commissioner of parks and recreation, said 130 non-residents and 900 residents have obtained cards. That's about 25 per cent of non-residents who use the rinks and 50 per cent of residents.
The intentions behind the program are good, O'Reilly said.
"Everybody is here to provide sports to people."
He added that the primary focus of the city is to establish an agreement between regional communities to share the cost of the rinks.
"Unfortunately, we haven't and we have to go down this road of a sanction-only solution to obtain those non-resident fees for that non-resident use."
But because of the fee, many non-resident hockey players with Hockey New Brunswick who used the city rinks have moved to other rinks outside the city, so Green thinks no more cards will be purchased by non-residents.
"All of our members have been accommodated, and they are now playing in non-city arenas," Green said.
He said not only are the new cards causing problems for non-resident players but also for players who reside in the city who can't physically get a card. Residents have to provide proof they live in the city to get cards.
"It's unfortunate to say this, but the majority of these kids don't have that home engagement and they don't have the means or the ways or the mechanism to physically get this card," he said.
"It's unfortunate that some of these kids are going to arrive at the rink and not be able to utilize that ice surface. It's by no fault of their own."
Players will have to start presenting their cards at city rinks on Dec. 9, when the city says it will start conducting spot checks.
"There's no argument these kids are city residents," Green said.
"The argument is there is no card in [their] pockets when a contracted security firm asks that person for ID."
With files from Information Morning Saint John