Youth no fee ice project a suc­cess for Amherst

Dal­housie re­search team says project re­duced bar­ri­ers to sport and in­creased par­tic­i­pa­tion

The Amherst News - - NEWS - By DaR­Rell cole dar­rell.cole@amher­st­ twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

AMHERST – Amherst’s no fee youth ice project had a pos­i­tive im­pact on the health and well­be­ing of the com­mu­nity’s youngest peo­ple, says a re­search team from Dal­housie Univer­sity.

The re­port, con­ducted by Ap­plied Re­search Col­lab­o­ra­tions for Health, was re­leased dur­ing an Amherst coun­cil com­mit­tee of the whole meet­ing on Mon­day.

“This project was an over­all suc­cess and is an ex­am­ple to other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties about how an in­vest­ment in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and youth is also an in­vest­ment in both the health and econ­omy of the com­mu­nity,” said the re­port.

Dr. Ryan Som­mers, med­i­cal of­fi­cer for Pub­lic Health Ser­vice’s north­ern zone, agreed. Not­ing that Nova Sco­tia has some of the poor­est health statis­tics in the coun­try, he said the project helped “re­duce the bar­ri­ers to phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity fac­ing youth.”

The project, he added, is an ex­am­ple of a pub­lic health that makes “healthy choices pos­si­ble and eas­ier for com­mu­nity mem­bers.”

Launched in Au­gust 2016, the Amherst Ice Al­lo­ca­tion Pilot Project saw coun­cil unan­i­mously ap­prove the elim­i­na­tion of ice fees for youth or­ga­ni­za­tions, like the Cum­ber­land County Mi­nor Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion and Amherst Skat­ing Club, and other ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at youth, like pub­lic skat­ing and high school hockey.

The town ap­proved the spend­ing of $80,000 to cover any loss in rev­enue.

The project was re­cently re­newed for the 2017-18 win­ter sea­son at the Amherst Sta­dium.

It also gar­nered at­ten­tion from or­ga­ni­za­tions like Sport Nova Sco­tia, Hockey Nova Sco­tia, Hockey Canada and Skate Canada, which have ex­pressed in­ter­est in us­ing the study in other ju­ris­dic­tions.

The project is be­lieved to be the first ini­tia­tive of its kind in Nova Sco­tia. The town hoped the project would halt a steady de­cline in sta­dium us­age while help­ing im­prove the health and well-be­ing of the com­mu­nity’s young peo­ple through in­creased phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties.

The re­port’s au­thors say those goals have been met.

Dur­ing the 2016-17 sea­son, the skat­ing club saved $19,000 in ice fees, while mi­nor hockey saved $45,000, en­abling both or­ga­ni­za­tions to cut regis­tra­tion fees and ex­pe­ri­ence an in­crease in regis­tra­tion.

The skat­ing club’s num­bers in­creased to 144 par­tic­i­pants in the 2016-2017 sea­son, up from 99 the pre­vi­ous year. The hockey as­so­ci­a­tion’s num­bers saw 277 youth par­tic­i­pate dur­ing the same time pe­riod, an in­crease of 17 par­tic­i­pants.

Mi­nor hockey also saved an ad­di­tional $2,400 in tour­na­ment fees, which en­abled it to host an ad­di­tional tour­na­ment last sea­son.

It is es­ti­mated the money gen­er­ated by hockey tour­na­ments in Amherst for lodg­ing and meals was about $98,580, the re­port said.

Recre­ation staff re­ported that ice-time use in­creased by 225 hours com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year, with staff see­ing up to a 60 per cent in­crease in pub­lic skat­ing.

Staff weren’t the only ones to see in­creased us­age of the sta­dium.

Seventy-two per cent of re­spon­dents to an on­line sur­vey con­ducted by the re­search team in­di­cated they used the sta­dium more dur­ing the 2016-17 sea­son than they had dur­ing the pre­vi­ous year, while 76 per cent per­ceived that phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity among youth had in­creased dur­ing the last sea­son.

Peo­ple who at­tended fo­cus groups con­ducted by the sur­vey team also in­di­cated there seemed to be in­creased ac­tiv­ity at the sta­dium com­pared to past years, and those at­tend­ing the fo­cus groups also said the re­duc­tion of regis­tra­tion fees helped youth to be ac­tive and “in­creased equitable ac­cess” to phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties in the com­mu­nity, the re­port added.

The ma­jor­ity of those par­tic­i­pat­ing in the on­line sur­vey and fo­cus groups in­di­cated they felt the money coun­cil spent dur­ing the project was a worth­while in­vest­ment, and 92 per cent of the re­spon­dents agreed the town should con­tinue to pro­vide fi­nan­cial support in or­der to main­tain and in­crease phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity among youth, the re­port said.

Mayor David Ko­gon was pleased with the pos­i­tive eval­u­a­tion of the pilot project.

“From both an eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and a health pro­mo­tion point of view we’ve seen the ben­e­fits first hand,” Ko­gon said. “The at­ten­tion that this project has gar­nered at the pro­vin­cial and re­gional lev­els and be­yond also al­lows us to em­pha­size our mes­sage that Amherst is a great place to live, work and play.”

DAr­rell Cole – Amherst News

A study by a re­search team from Dal­housie Univer­sity found more young peo­ple were phys­i­cally ac­tive dur­ing the 2016-17 win­ter sea­son at the Amherst Sta­dium be­cause of the town’s no fee youth ice project.

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