Andrea’s Hotel in Watson Lake, photographed on Nov. 27, is quoting potential customers $500 per night for the weekend of Feb. 22, 2019. That weekend is the same that a peewee hockey tournament is scheduled to take place. (Submitted)

Watson Lake hotel quoting $500/night rate for weekend of peewee hockey tournament

A parent of a Whitehorse hockey player said that, at first, she thought the rate was a joke

A Watson Lake hotel is quoting a $500-per-night rate for the weekend a peewee hockey tournament is scheduled to be held in town, leaving at least one parent confused and frustrated about the situation.

Tammy Neunherz, whose son plays on a Whitehorse peewee team, said she immediately began calling hotels in Watson Lake Nov. 21 when she found out the dates for the Divisional Yukon Cups — specifically, the peewee tournament, scheduled for Feb. 22 to 24, 2019.

While she expected to perhaps have to pay a little more than usual because of the tournament and the fact that it’s off-season, Neunherz said she was taken aback when a woman from Andrea’s Hotel called her back and quoted her $500 a night.

“I was like, ‘Pardon me? … I don’t need the whole hotel, just one room,’” Neunherz said in an interview Nov. 26.

According to Neunherz, the woman she spoke to that day told her that the hotel was “trying to send a message” to the town council that taxes were too high.

Neunherz said she thinks that’s unfair.

“I’m just really disappointed that they would choose to ‘send this message’ on a weekend that parents and kids look forward to … They work hard all season to be able to play in these tournaments and have a good weekend away,” she said.

“It’s just not, for a lack of a better term, Yukon-y, you know?”

A reporter called hotels in Watson Lake Nov. 26 to request their rates for the weekend of Feb. 22, 2019, without identifying herself as being from the News.

A Nice Motel said its rate was $159 plus tax, but that it was fully booked.

Big Horn Hotel was also fully booked.

Andrea’s Hotel quoted $500 a night. When asked for the rate the weekend of Feb. 15, 2019, it quoted $150. Asked about the discrepancy in prices, the woman on the phone said, “That’s the decision we’ve made.”

The News tried multiple times to speak to an owner on the record. An email to the hotel went unanswered. The News called three times on Nov. 27 . The first two times, the News was told by the woman who answered the phone that the owner would be in later in the day. The third time, the number went to voicemail, on which the News left a message.

The News also called the morning of Nov. 28 and was told the owner was out of town, but that a message would be passed along to her.

The News did not receive a response before presstime.

In an interview Nov. 27, Watson Lake chief administrative officer Cam Lockwood said that mayor and council have received an email from a minor hockey association but have not heard from anyone at Andrea’s Hotel about any concerns.

Lockwood confirmed that $500 is “definitely not” a normal hotel rate in Watson Lake, saying that the “top end” of prices is usually $159.

Since the hotel is a private business, there’s nothing the town can do, Lockwood said, but added that it doesn’t charge anything other than “normal businesses taxes,” and while mayor and council are also discussing introducing an accommodation levy, it’s still in the draft phase.

Hockey Yukon President Travis Ritchie said in an interview Nov. 27 that the association and Watson Lake hosting committee have been approached by community members about the situation with Andrea’s Hotel.

“It would seem to me that a hotel charging that much money would be gouging and … it’s certainly not something that the host committee would like, the community would like, Hockey Yukon would like or the players would like, but it’s something that this particular vendor might be doing,” he said.

About six teams are expected to play in the peewee tournament, meaning that about 100 people, including both players and parents, will be in town for the weekend.

In the past, Ritchie said, when tournaments have been held in communities where there weren’t enough hotel rooms to accommodate everyone, hosting committees have turned to alternatives like “indoor camping,” where teams set up sleeping bags in spaces like school gyms or community halls.

While moving the tournament is also on the table, Ritchie said organizers are trying to find other solutions first.

“It’s (early) days in organizing the tournament and we’re certainly going to do our best to make sure that all the participants have … safe and hospitable accommodations,” he said.

“I think this is just one vendor that may be going rogue … So certainly something that’s an issue for us, but we’re working hard to try and make the event work for these young people. That’s our focus, is giving them an opportunity to have some fun and compete.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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