Canada Games teams look for a better place to warm up City Council Notebook

Often, high-performance athletes are exercising in the public hallways and stairways of the Canada Games Centre while the centre’s treadmills,…

Often, high-performance athletes are exercising in the public hallways and stairways of the Canada Games Centre while the centre’s treadmills, stationary bikes and indoor track sit idle.

Despite paying the city thousands in fees, the athletes don’t have much access to the publicly owned facilities.

“It doesn’t make sense to the athletes when they have the facility right there where they can use the track,” Whitehorse Mustangs/Canada Winter Games training squad manager Jim Stephens told city council this week.

The hockey team pays $85 an hour to train on the Games centre’s ice and, in the past year, has contributed $25,000 — $1,000 per player — in fees to the centre.

But that’s not enough to allow team members to use other parts of the facility.

The team weight trains at another gym because the centre is not set up for heavy lifting, but is looking to access the track, treadmills and exercise bikes to warm up before practice and cool down afterward.

Under the current pricing structure that access would cost each athlete more than $30 a month (a youth pass for teens ages 13 to 18 costs $36.75 monthly).

“It’s too expensive for teams to utilize it,” said Stephens.

“I’m not saying we want it for free; we’re willing to pay, but we’re not willing to pay $30 a month to use it for two hours.”

So Stephens asked council to re-evaluate team fees at the centre and proposed team members pay an extra $15 per month, to use the track and wellness centre before and after their ice times.

Currently, the Games centre pricing is set through a bylaw that cannot be changed without council’s approval.

It is slated to revisit the fees-and-charges bylaw in January as part of an annual review.

But that’s too late for teams looking to cram in extra hours of training before the Games begin in February.

“We’re under time pressure here; that’s why I’ve come here to plead our case this evening,” said Stephens.

“These kids are really trying and the odds are against them.

“We have less than 99 days to go and our kids are really training hard.”

Other groups training on the centre’s ice, like figure skaters and speed skaters, are facing the same problem.

Arctic Edge Figure Skating pays a “staggering” $10,000 a month in ice fees, said club treasurer Sheri Blaker on Tuesday.

Arctic Edge runs a special intensive program where students skate at two separate times in the afternoon with a break in between when they train off-ice.

The high cost and high demand for ice time makes it impossible for athletes to do all of their training on the centre’s rinks.

“It would be really convenient for them to use the Canada Games facility, but it’s too expensive,” said figure skating coach Lori Austin.

So most figure skaters vying for a spot on the Canada Games team go all the way to the gym at Better Bodies to run and lift weights.

Parents with teens using the two ice times already pay $900 for the eight-month program, which runs from September to April, said Austin.

And that doesn’t include the cost of lessons, which can run an additional $200, or more, every month.

Arctic Edge also wanted to run another program for its younger skaters once a week in the centre’s flexi hall, but that option was also scrapped because it was too expensive.

“It’s supposed to be win-win; we’re paying a lot of money to be here for our sport, let us win a little bit by getting a little bit extra to try and develop good athletes — kids that are off the street, kids that have a better place to be and kids that are fit,” said Blaker.

“It’s important that they have access to these things if they’re going to excel at their sport,” said Yukon Amateur Speed Skating Association president Bruce Henry.

“I know lots of people who go up and pay their drop-in fee and they can use the whole works.

“I don’t know why, when you pay the big ice fees, the most expensive fees in the building, that you’re only allowed to use the ice.

“Maybe it’s just an oversight on their part,” said Henry.

Currently, the 50 speed-skating students warm up in the centre’s common areas — they run up and down the stands and stretch in the centre’s hallways.

“I think it would be more appropriate if they could do that in areas where they won’t disturb the public,” added Henry.

City administration will meet with Games centre staff to draft an agreement for teams using the centre’s ice, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.

Any changes in the fee structure must come back before council for approval.

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