‘We saw some very positive results’: Amherst Skating Club president
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.
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 also led to a reduction in registration fees for this year’s Roy Maltby Fundy Hockey School.