‘We saw some very pos­i­tive re­sults’: Amherst Skat­ing Club pres­i­dent

The Amherst News - - SPORTS - By Dar­rell Cole Amherst News dcole@amher­st­daily.com Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

Amherst’s no fee youth ice time pol­icy is con­tin­u­ing to garner at­ten­tion across the coun­try.

Just days af­ter an­nounc­ing the pi­lot project will con­tinue into the 2017-18 win­ter sea­son, the town’s re­cre­ation di­rec­tor said he is con­tin­u­ing to get calls from other mu­nic­i­pal units and na­tional sports or­ga­ni­za­tions look­ing for in­for­ma­tion.

“Since the re­lease went out from the mayor’s of­fice we re­ceived more in­quiries in one day than we did in the first three months last year,” Bill Schur­man said. “Sport Nova Sco­tia, Hockey Nova Sco­tia, Hockey Canada, Skate Canada and oth­ers have ex­pressed in­ter­est in us­ing the study that Dal­housie will fin­ish and our ex­pe­ri­ences with the pi­lot to have dis­cus­sions in other ju­ris­dic­tions. It has def­i­nitely gen­er­ated a lot of in­ter­est in terms of the phi­los­o­phy be­hind it and why is Amherst do­ing this.”

The project, launched last sum­mer, aims to in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and af­ford­abil­ity in youth pro­grams such as fig­ures skat­ing, mi­nor hockey and pub­lic skat­ing by re­duc­ing bar­ri­ers through re­duced reg­is­tra­tion and user fees.

All or­ga­ni­za­tions that qual­ify for the pro­gram must pass the no fee ice savings to par­tic­i­pants through lower reg­is­tra­tion costs. Based on the first year of the pro­gram, Schur­man said in­di­vid­ual savings ranged from $75 to $350 per per­son based on the ac­tiv­ity.

It’s es­ti­mated the pro­gram rep­re­sented savings of ap­prox­i­mately $60,000, in­clud­ing $40,000 for the Cum­ber­land County Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion and $18,000 for the Amherst Skat­ing Club.

“We saw some very pos­i­tive re­sults from the pro­gram,” Amherst Skat­ing Club pres­i­dent Will Cob­bett said. “We saw an in­crease in our Learn to Skate pro­grams and across the board there was an al­most 40 per cent re­duc­tion in fees.”

Cob­bett said with the no-fee ice pro­gram en­ter­ing a sec­ond sea­son, he’s an­tic­i­pat­ing a fur­ther in­crease in reg­is­tra­tion and par­tic­i­pa­tion in skat­ing club pro­grams.

Also, with no user fees for pub­lic skat­ing, sta­dium staff saw a 35 to 40 per cent in­crease in pub­lic skat­ing dur­ing the first year of the pi­lot.

“We’re pleased to ex­tend this pi­lot project con­tin­u­ing our com­mit­ment to the Amherst Re­cre­ation Mas­ter Plan, the Mu­nic­i­pal Ac­tiv­ity Strat­egy and, in par­tic­u­lar, help­ing Amherst in its jour­ney to be the most ac­tive, healthy com­mu­nity in Nova Sco­tia,” Mayor Dr. David Ko­gon said in a news re­lease. “In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing more ac­ces­si­ble pro­gram­ming to youth, the pi­lot has also cre­ated eco­nomic spinoffs for our com­mu­nity, in­creas­ing ac­tiv­ity at the sta­dium, which in turn leads to in­creased vis­its to the town and out of town guests look­ing for lodg­ing, re­tail and din­ing out­lets.”

The project is also part of a study by Dal­housie Univer­sity that was funded by the province to mea­sure its im­pact in terms of par­tic­i­pa­tion, how much the sta­dium was used and whether it helped at­tract more events.

Dal­housie is ex­pected to present its find­ing to the town in the next month or so, Schur­man said.

“We do know that both mi­nor hockey and fig­ure skat­ing told us their numbers were up and we do know that the num­ber of peo­ple in pub­lic skat­ing was up as well,” Schur­man said.

He said spinoffs in­cluded a Skate Canada de­vel­op­ment camp in De­cem­ber along with the Bluenose Mi­nor Hockey Tour­na­ment and the Corey Bates – Nick Mer­rill Friend­ship Tour­na­ment.

“Gen­er­ally speak­ing we be­lieve this was a pos­i­tive project,” he said.

Chuck Liney Photography

Amherst’s no-fee youth ice project is be­ing ex­tended into a sec­ond year. The project, first an­nounced in Au­gust 2016, saw in­creased en­rol­ment and par­tic­i­pa­tion in both the Cum­ber­land County Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion and the Amherst Skat­ing Club. It has...

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