A review committee is exploring ways to save money in the operation of Clarenville’s Eastlink Events Centre (EEC).
The Eastlink Events Centre Operational Review Committee, formed about six months ago and chaired by Deputy Mayor Heber Smith, aims to close the gap between the centre’s income and expenditures as much as possible.
“Are we getting the best possible value for that investment? We will continue to make that investment, unquestionably, but can we get more value out of it? Are we getting the maximum value out of it… can this be done for less money, to get the same benefit? That is one of the things we’ve been looking at this year,” said Finance and Administration Committee chair Paul Tilley.
“We talk about every different aspect of the events centre,” added Brandon Reardon, committee member and Clarenville’s recreation manager.
‘Everything’ means theatre shows to bathroom cleanliness to ice time schedules and everything in between.
A big focus of the review is on energy efficiency.
In an interview with The Packet earlier this year, Tilley said the Town of Clarenville, like many other municipalities, are worried about rising operations costs as Muskrat Falls comes on stream.
The subsequent review of the EEC, uncovered a lot of mechanical and electrical shortfalls, says Reardon.
Reardon says one of the recommendations will most likely be an energy performance contract for lighting and mechanical upgrades; involving a switch to LED lighting, installation of automatic switches for lights, faucets and toilets, and even a heat-recovery system.
These solutions that could cut down on the costs involved in running one of most expensive facilities among the properties the town owns
According to Reardon, council currently has the review, but it has not yet been formally discussed.
The high cost of recreation
In 2017, the EEC (including both the stadium and theatre) earned $524,622.45, off set against expenditures of $1,031,455.91, equaling a loss of $506,833.46.
The hydro bill for the year cost $170,613.23; by far the highest expense baring annual wages, which cost $493,909.28 (plus an additional $25,104,71 to pay those hired on for special events.)
The majority of the EEC’s revenue was from ice rentals ($285,460.09), while theatre rentals brought in $20,994.03. Canteen sales brought in nearly $45,000.
It should be noted that the Bill Davis Chalet is also grouped together with the EEC on the town’s records, so that financial totals for the EEC also included totals for the chalet, but these are minor to the overall coast (for example, the chalet brought in $8,393.28 in rentals, and ran up a Hyrdo bill of $5,321.87)
Town Clerk Angela Giles noted an EEC employee may work in other areas of recreation outside the centre; so the annual wages paid for EEC employees may not stay within the centre.
This pattern, of revenue equaling only about half of the centre’s expenditures, is consistent with EEC records over the years.
For example, in 2010, the centre’s first full year of operation, the stadium earned $337,452, off set against expenditures of $760,335.94— equaling a loss of $422,883.94.
Council is also still paying off the loan related to the construction of the $3 million Events Centre.
There’s still $800,000 left to pay on that mortgage according to last year’s budget
They don’t expect to have be able to have a mortgage burning ceremony until 2035.
Tilley says that, unfortunately, this is the cost of providing recreation services.
“We spend more on providing recreational services than recreational services bring back to the town in terms of dollar to dollar,” admits Tilley.
“The operation of parks and playgrounds is a money loser. The operation of a chalet is a money loser. The operation of the stadium itself is a money loser. All of those, if you look at them in the cold, hard fact of economics, the town is foolish to have all of them. But, those are the very things that make a town,” Tilley told The Packet.
He noted that just over $1 million for recreation and cultural services is a sizeable chunk of the town’s $11 million budget, those services are what draw families to the community in the first place.
Tilley also says it’s undeniable that economic development is furthered by these services, but the exact impact is impossible to quantify— there’s the fact that a family visiting Clarenville for a weekend hockey tournament will likely sleep in a Clarenville hotel, eat at Clarenville restaurants, and fill up their vehicles at local gas stations.
Recreation costs at a glance
In its 2018 budget the Town of Clarenville budgeted $1,113,620 for Recreation and cultural services, which includes money spent on parks, playgrounds, and programs.
Revenue for recreation and cultural services is about $529,700 for this year.
Town budgets from the past show a similar trend, with recreation and culture expenses much higher than revenue.
For 2017, the town budgeted $1,122,284 for recreation and cultural services, with a projected revenue of $539,200.
In 2016, the budget for recreation was $1,073,485, with projected revenue of $534, 200.
History of the EEC
The Eastlink Events Centre opened in 2009 as the Clarenville Events Centre. It was renamed in December, 2014, after the town reached a five-year sponsorship deal with Eastlink.
The sponsorship is valued at $72,000 per year: $20,000 in cash and $52,000 of in-kind services such as promotion and advertising.
That agreement is up for renewal in December, 2019).
The Clarenville Caribous played their first game in the new stadium on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009, winning 5-2 against the Deer Lake Red Wings.
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