A WHL championship banner won’t be the only new addition to the Art Hauser Centre when hockey season begins next fall.
On Monday, Prince Albert city council agreed to fund the purchase of a new score clock, which will cost $275,000 plus additional taxes. The city will supply roughly $95,000 of that, while the Prince Albert Raiders will be on the hook for $100,000, payable over five years.
Grant money from the Destination Marketing Fund will be used to cover the rest. The city has also discussed asking for a $15,000 contribution from Prince Albert’s two Midget AAA hockey clubs, which could also be paid over several years.
“We’re prepared to hopefully have some flexibility to meet their operating budgets for the upcoming season, and also to provide an enhanced in-game experience and opportunity for both of those (Midget AAA) clubs as part of those partnerships,” community services director Jody Boulet said.
The move means the Art Hauser Centre will be in full compliance with new WHL facility standards set to come into affect for the 2019-20 season. Those standards include a new LED lighting system, a new in venue LED video display score clock and a new acrylic rink board and glass system.
The WHL has provided short-term extension to the Art Hauser Centre, which is the only facility in the league without an LED video display score clock. The clock will also come with extra protection to prevent further damager. The arena’s current clock was hit seven times during the Raiders’ championship run due to the low ceiling.
Boulet said the score clock will also allow for more sponsorship and advertising opportunities, while allowing for greater flexibility when hosting non-hockey related events, like high school graduations. He added that the clock could also be transferred to a new venue, should the city decide to build a new rink in the future.
“We are looking to use a slightly smaller model, but yes, it can expand and is completely portable to a new venue, should that arise,” he explained. “Also, the flexibility of the configuration of the screens can also be used for other events, whether that be the events that are hosted at the Art Hauser Centre on an annual basis, or any other events that are going to be hosted in the future.”
The Art Hauser is expected to host two major hockey events with national exposure next season. The first is the final game of the Canada/Russia Challenge in November 2019. The second is the ESSO Cup, the top prize in Female Midget AAA Hockey, which will be held in April 2020.
While most city councillors were on board with the project, not all said it was a good allocation of resources. Ward 7 Coun. Dennis Nowoselsky was the most vocal critic. He said the city is struggling to provide basic services to taxpayers, and argued the money could be better spent there.
“I think (the clock) is a great idea, but I have some concerns,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had stacks of citizens phone and say they can’t get the boulevards cleaned. We don’t have the resources to do the boulevards and grass cutting. We can’t have a second street sweeping because we don’t have the money. We can’t get basic teeter totters and swings put in some of the parks, where there’s lots of young kids, because we don’t have the money, and our Public Works Department needs $100-million in the next five or so years of urgent public works money. Weigh that balance. It’s a tough one.”
Other councillors disagreed with that approach, saying a multi-use clock would provide benefits for all residents who use the Art Hauser Centre, not just hockey fans.
“Swings and teeter totters? We just put a whole bunch of money into our parks program,” said Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick. “We know that there is a master plan coming out for the parks that will identify all the needs of our parks and playgrounds … so that, I don’t think, is a valid comment. What I like about this project … is it’s going to be used for many different events, not just the Raiders, and not just for hockey.”
He added that the Art Hauser Centre was an aging facility that required upgrades like a new score clock if the city hoped to use it to host major national events.
Ogrodnick is responsible for playing music at Prince Albert Raider hockey games. He also successfully lobbied for the inclusion of more playground equipment in Prince Albert parks, the most recent of which was opened for public use in Crescent Acres on July 5.
Raider championship run generates tidy profit for city
The Prince Albert Raiders championship season not only brought the city it’s first WHL title in more than 30 years, it also generated a large profit.
According to a report included in Monday’s budget package, the city generated $153,402.98 in net surplus from Raiders playoff games. The money has been allocated to the Arenas Improvement Reserve.
The City of Prince Albert receives 15 per cent of all gate admissions and 10 per cent of all alcohol sales during the WHL playoffs as part of a Royalty and License Agreement with the Raiders.