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REPORTING · 16th June 2010
Walter McFarlane
Lori Ferreira took the stand at the Kitimat City Council Meeting on Monday, June 7th. She introduced herself as the mother of a youth who plays minor hockey in Kitimat and she wanted to speak about the closure of KIR.

“I just wanted to speak to you tonight in support of the advisory recreation committee's recommendation to keep KIR open,” said Ferreira. “It’s a wonderful rink for practices and games for younger kids because of it’s smaller surface so they don’t get quite as tired and coaches don’t have to yell quite as loud.”

She explained her son loves hockey and it stems from the experiences he’s received both from playing hockey three times a week and from his coaches. She said KIR is the heart of his hockey experience.

She also added the benches are the perfect place for parents to gather and discuss aspects of parenting and form bonds of camaraderie. She reminded Council Kitimat hosted an 18 team Novice / Atom tournament gathering people from across the Sacred Circle. They were told by parents Kitimat was lucky to have two rinks because rink time is one of the big issues in winter sports.

She added the ice time leads to clinics and events for youth to practice and get better. She reminded them they were lucky to have youth be invited to play on “BC’s Best Teams.”

“Kitimat has world class recreation facilities, two of them being of course, Tamitik and KIR. In the legacy of the 2010 Winter Olympics this past February, we should be celebrating the achievements of our Canadian Athletes and supporting our future athletes,” said Ferreira.

She said the cost of keeping KIR open was minimal as was the cost of keeping it operating. Ferreira also added the rinks were places for the kids to feel safe. She said kids who participate in sports do better and they need to provide as many opportunities to the youth as they can.

She also reminded Council when there is nothing for youth to do, they make poor choices and participate in crimes. She said without hockey, there will be sad kids and parents and they all know the kids are going to make the NHL. She added once ice times are established for one rink, there will be people playing until 2 in morning and this could lead to accidents when they have to work the next day.

“If KIR closes, Kitimat is going to have the appearance and reality of Kitimat becoming a 'have not' community. The fear has always been if a major industry were to close, it will become a ghost town. It is vital to keep our recreation activities open to keep Kitimat as a welcoming community,” said Ferreira .

She reminded council about Kitimat minor Hockey polling hockey families to learn with the closure of Eurocan, only 3 families will be leaving Kitimat. They expect their numbers to remain the same. She added people who play in tournaments do come back during the summer to enjoy other Kitimat recreational pastimes.

Finally, Mackenzie decided to use recreation to pull their community together after their mill closed. She hoped Kitimat could use Mackenzie as an example.

She asked why, if Kitimat has a hiring freeze, why they have three key recreation coordinators.

“It takes a village to raise a child and one of Kitimat’s villages is KIR,” concluded Ferreira. There were no questions from the Councillors so she sat down.

The closure of Kitimat Ice Rink came up under reports. Councillor Feldhoff made the motion to keep it open for one year. Feldhoff stated he had argued for it in the past.

“At the time we did our budget, perhaps we may have been hasty in our decision to close KIR. We’ve received very strong arguments from a cross section of the community to reconsider that decision and on reflection, there is a lot of logic in the arguments being made,” said Feldhoff.

He said they made too many cutbacks in the recreation department and it’s the recreation which set Kitimat apart. He hoped they would see some projects in the future.

Councillor Randy Halyk said they may have been hasty but there were also capital costs which would cost a lot to replace. He wanted to know if they had the funds to replace it. He said it would be nice to maintain two ice rinks but they may not be able to afford to do so. He was concerned, although he would like to keep KIR, the community would not be able to afford to keep it open.

Councillor Rob Goffinet wanted to know where the money would come from. Municipal Manager Trafford Hall explained: when the Council went through their budget, they looked at many different line items which could have been cut and they were looking at a large picture. Now they were looking at a single item without the other items. He reminded them the compressor could fail. He answered they would be able to draw the money from reserves.

“At the time we were discussing this, we were in the mode of planning for the worst and hoping for the best. I guess we are still in that mode. I’m not so sure. At the time, we were given the numbers of the people who used it over the last few years, we’ve seen steady decline in usage of that arena and I think it is time we were all comfortable with the fact that, perhaps we could get by without it. I have heard and seen nothing to change my mind. I think it should remain closed this year and see where we go. It might be a mistake with the tournaments but there has been a steady decline in the usage of that arena,” said Councillor Bob Corless.

Halyk remembered hearing Tamitik could take over the slack from KIR. He thought this would mean the tournaments as well. He asked Recreation Director Martin Gould if they could handle this. Gould explained if KIR was closed, Tamitik could take the slack but this would mean later mornings and early hours for the arena and probably would have an effect on the tournaments.

Goffinet wanted to know how much the loss of tournaments would cost the economy of Kitimat. To him, the numbers he received looked extremely high. Gould explained the numbers were not dead on as they were estimates based on the amount spent by a person coming into the community for a night, approximately $117 a night.

Feldhoff reminded the Councillors they put a sizable chunk of change into reserves they could dip into to give KIR another year. The motion was called and carried, but this still means KIR could be mothballed again next year.