With Minden Hills taxpayers paying off the loan for the Minden recreation complex, news the town is getting a junior hockey team helps somewhat with that financial burden.

The former Whitby Fury – now renamed the Haliburton County Huskies – have made the Minden arena their new home under a draft tenancy agreement discussed at council’s April 29 meeting.

Director of community services, Craig Belfry, said the team is investing in the township. That includes renovating the Scout Hall area to create their own dressing room, lounge, training rooms, offices and showers. He estimated they’ll spend $105,000 plus HST.

They’ll also run the concession stand. While the township will derive no revenue from snack bar sales, it means they don’t have to run it, find someone to operate it, or spend any money.

And, of course, the Huskies will be buying ice time.

The township has been generous with taxpayers’ money on this front, offering heavy discounts for the seven-year term of the agreement. It begins with 30 per cent of the applicable hourly rate in the first year, climbing incrementally to 65 per cent in year seven.

Belfry said the discount is to give the team a chance to become established.

The latest ice rental fees I could find on the township website include a ticket ice rental rate of $80 per hour plus HST or a prime-time rate of $112 an hour. If the team is using ice in both categories, it averages out to about $96 an hour. At their former rink, the Iroquois Arena in Whitby, they paid $99.75.

The discounted rates here will see them pay, according to my math, a little under $30 an hour in their first year, climbing to about $62 in their seventh year. That’s a pretty hefty discount.

However, Belfry said it’s still nearly $87,000 over seven years, and since the team will fill scheduling gaps, it’s money the township wouldn’t have made otherwise. They’ll also spend $6,500-a-year using a room at the community centre, he pointed out.

One also has to look at the economic impact for the community at large.

When the squad rolls in for training camp in August, it is going to bring a bunch of team personnel, players, and their families. These people may commute but are likely going to be looking for somewhere to stay and eat. The team will need goods and services and we would hope they would source those locally. On a Friday or Saturday night, a home game could attract 300 spectators, all of whom may want to grab a bite before the game, or a drink after.

Belfry shared bits of a Hockey Canada report from 2015 on economic, community and sport benefits. Hockey Canada found that the impact of hockey on Canadian communities directly relates to the generation of $2.6 billion annually across the nation. In particular, hockey-related tourism in small towns acts as a key driver of direct impact. More than $1 billon of that $2.6 billion flowed into communities of less than 100,000 people.

Looking at the Neepawa Natives, a junior team in small-town Manitoba, it’s estimated they have spent $6.2 million from the time they started operating in 1989 to 2016. That money has gone to billets, for equipment, ice rental, salaries and team expenses.

Economic studies show money spent in a local economy has a 1:7 ratio, that every dollar gets circulated seven times. That means the Natives have generated an economic impact of more than $42 million in Neepawa since 1989.

We look forward to seeing the numbers when the Huskies complete their seventh season, in 2028.

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