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Canmore Eagles take shot at getting $67K debt erased

The local hockey club owes Town of Canmore in ice-time fees
Canmore Eagles Nathan MacPherson-Ridgewell blasts a shot against the Brooks Bandits at the Canmore Recreation Centre in December 2023. JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – The Canmore Eagles want its ice-time debt to the Town scraped away.

Representatives from the Junior A hockey club appeared at Canmore council on Tuesday (July 2) with hopes that its $67,450.08 debt, which is due Sept. 15, would be thrown out in lieu of potential projects that could benefit the community.

Eagles president Darryl Lockwood said expenses out of the non-profit organization’s pocket and potential upgrades inside the Alex Kaleta Arena at the Canmore Recreation Centre are the main factors reasons in the request.

The Eagles accrued around $150,000 in ice-time debt in 2014 and have since been on a repayment agreement.

However, as the club sets its eagle eye on community benefits such as an upgraded speaker system and placement of an info screen/mini jumbotron inside Alex Kaleta Arena, along with a national Sportsnet-run event coming to Canmore in 2025 with major economic impact implications, the club is asking for a clean slate.

“We know that $65,000 is a big ask for the Town to write off and to justify to the people of Canmore,” said Eagles president Darryl Lockwood. 

“But we feel our value to the community … Released from this debt will help us start out this year with a strong foundation and hopefully we can do better than just break even.”

The Eagles are also obligated to add camera installation for video review under Alberta Junior Hockey League rules, and repay debt to the Canmore Minor Hockey Association for seat renovations.

The total cost of mandatory bills and potential projects is approximately $55,000.

During three years of renovation and the pandemic years, Lockwood said the club lost approximately $30,000 in revenue per season, with an added cost of the creation of a bar in the facility of approximately $20,000 – the Town waived $10K worth of deferred fees.

Travel expenses have also gone up for the club, which account for approximately $200,000 of its $650,000-$700,000 annual operating budget.

However, despite financial hits, Lockwood said fans are coming out to support home games. During the pandemic and renovation years, the average audience attendance per game was approximately 150 fans in the arena, but shot up in 2022-23 to 470 per game and 589 per game in 2023-24. 

“For an increase of 14.9 per cent, the highest average growth last year in all other AJHL teams,” said Lockwood. “We’re extremely proud of that.”

Lockwood added that in previous years, interested buyers have approached the debt-ridden team. However, their intentions were to relocate the Eagles from the Bow Valley. The current board sees value in keeping it in Canmore, such as with the May announcement that Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada will be held in town on Jan. 18, 2025.

The 25th anniversary of the event features special programming and stories from across the nation throughout the day, with all seven Canadian NHL teams in action in the evening.

The organizers of Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada approached the Canmore Eagles about possibly hosting the event last December. The Eagles jumped on the opportunity, and teamed up with the Town of Canmore, Canmore Minor Hockey Association and Tourism Canmore Kananaskis to create an organizing committee.

“That call doesn’t happen if the Junior A team isn’t here,” said Lockwood.

When the question period opened, Mayor Sean Krausert and Coun. Karen Marra asked if the Town would eventually own any upgraded assets paid for by the Eagles.

“I think we can go back to the bar, that was a nice little project together, and that’s the Town’s,” said Lockwood. “If something ever happened to us, that is the Town’s space to do whatever they feel.”

Marra followed up with if any of the potential upgrades would benefit other user groups at the Canmore rec centre. Lockwood said there would be, noting cameras could help with coaching aspects in minor hockey and figure skating, plus an alleviated fan experience.

Though it’s a bit of an odd setup, Coun. Wade Graham asked administration if it was normal for a third-party to upgrade Town assets and then for the Town to own them. Administration noted collaborative efforts have occurred in the past, such as with the new tennis courts at Lions Park.

“While it’s not typical in every facility, it’s also not unique to the rec centre,” said CAO Sally Caudill, also citing collaborative efforts with the Town-owned artsPlace facility.

The Eagles will be back in front of council Aug. 20 for a decision.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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