Local amateur sports groups stand to lose $765,000 in funding from the Calgary Flames if the NHL season is cancelled, Metro has learned.
Even if the season is salvaged, the Flames will be required to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars less than normal to the Saddledome Foundation – which in turn distributes the money to sports groups – after city council agreed to grant the hockey club’s request for a “partial rental fee reduction,” according to a report obtained by Metro.
The move was narrowly approved by an 8-7 vote behind closed doors, according to the minutes from council’s Nov. 5 meeting.
“I don’t think anybody was happy about doing it,” said Ald. Ray Jones, who voted in favour of the fee reduction.
Jones said his vote was influenced by the fact that the three groups that receive the funding – WinSport Canada, Hockey Canada, and Parks Foundation Calgary – supported the Flames’ request to reduce the annual allocation.
Parks Foundation CEO Myrna Dube said the Flames’ request was “understandable” given the lockout situation and said the funding program is still “very generous.”
Crowfoot Minor Hockey Association president Darren Dean said “it’s quite a shame” that a dispute between NHL owners and “overpaid employees” has led to any funding reduction.
Many local arenas rely on outside grants for capital improvements and would not survive without them, he said, pointing to the closure of the ice at the Brentwood Sportsplex Centre earlier this year due to a mechanical failure as just one example.
“There’s a lot of talk about how this (lockout) impacts the fans, but there’s not a lot of talk about how this impacts minor hockey at all levels,” Dean said.
Ald. Jim Stevenson said he voted against the Flames’ request because he “just didn’t feel it was right.”
“Regardless of what their situation was, if there was a commitment to donate this money to the charities then they should still carry on and do that,” he said.
The city granted the Flames a similar reduction in Saddledome fees during the 2004/05 NHL lockout, Jones said.
Calgary Flames vice-president of communications Peter Hanlon said the club has no comment on the matter.
Terms of the deal:
- Under an agreement with the city-owned Saddledome, the Calgary Flames were to pay $1.515 million in “indexed rent” to the Saddledome Foundation this year.
- That has now been reduced to $750,000 in “base rent,” in light of the lockout.
- If the NHL season resumes, the amount will be increased “based on the number of home games the Flames actually play,” according to a city report.