Corp Comm Connects

Thornhill could be on losing end of ice time allocation
June 18, 2015
By Laura Finney

Growth in Markham the past decade has impacted demand for ice time at municipally-owned arenas, the city’s director of recreation says, and some changes in how ice time is allotted may be required.

“Since 2006 we’ve experienced significant growth in the community and it has created some challenges in equitable distribution of ice,” Mary Creighton said.

A presentation about the ice allocation process was made to the city’s general committee in 2013, and one recommendation was to look at the extra ice allocation process.

The Facility Allocations Office co-ordinates distribution of ice time at 10 community centres between 15 groups, private rentals, public skating and recreational programs.

It uses a policy that ensures distribution is fair and equitable, gives priority to youth and children, and to Markham residents.

A formula is used to allocate ice to youth leagues and adult ice is allocated based on historical usage.

Currently about 14 percent, or 95 hours of ice time, is considered extra ice. There is no model to allocate this ice time to groups, Creighton said.

Many of the groups that use Markham ice have become dependent on this extra time, and can pay to use it.

But right now the extra ice is not necessarily going to Markham residents.

“Several groups with high percentage of residents have received less ice,” Creighton said, “while groups with higher percentage of non-residents are receiving more of the extra ice.”

A review has been proposed to look at creating a formula that would give priority to residency. Creighton listed three scenarios.

The first was to keep the extra ice allocation the way it is. However, Creighton said some groups with a high percentage of residents have said they need more ice and will identify this as unfair.

The second scenario suggested distributing ice through a formula, giving priority to clubs with a higher percentage of youth from Markham.

Thornhill impacted?

This would have an impact on teams that have high percentages of non-residents, including the Thornhill Community Hockey League.

The league currently uses about 34 hours of extra ice time a week. According to this scenario, they would be entitled to only 4.4 - a loss of almost 30 hours.

“The Thornhill Hockey League could find it difficult to operate with a reduction of hours of this quantity,” Creighton said.

The third option looked at eliminating extra time by allotting all the available ice time. This means clubs without a higher percentage of residents would not have the option to purchase extra hours, such as the Thornhill Hockey League or rep teams and some clubs that do not require additional time may not want the added costs.

Councillor Don Hamilton said not a lot had changed since the last presentation in 2013, and that this problem was a “political hot potato”.

But he added he is starting to feel momentum, and he would support something that puts the local residents first, even if it means Thornhill residents will suffer.

“I think it’s important we be servicing the residents of Markham first and foremost,” he said.

Councillor Colin Campbell agreed, but acknowledged it is a balancing act.

He suggested forming a strategy for creating new facilities.

“In the future, we’re going to have to bite the bullet,” he said. “And we’re going to have to build extra ice rinks.”

The next stages for the review process will include user group consultations and a report back to council in November. The city is planning on implementing the new ice allocation process in the 2016-17 season.