A cloud of uncertainty floats above the South Okanagan Flames junior lacrosse team and its usual home, Memorial Arena.
Flames governor April Thompson is hoping the team will be able to play out of Memorial Arena for the 2016 season. She contacted Spectra management by email in November, but didn’t hear anything until the end of December. At that time, she heard that Spectra, which operates Memorial Arena for the City of Penticton, was keeping ice through the spring and summer, minus three weeks in June, which doesn’t help the Flames.
“They didn’t contact any lacrosse groups at all. There was no communication at all with us,” said Thompson. “It was a complete surprise. It seems that they’re just about the almighty dollar.”
Dean Clarke, regional vice-president for Spectra Venue Management, said no promises have been made to anyone. Clarke said that city staff and Spectra have compiled a report, which they are bringing to council on Feb. 1.
Clarke described it as a balancing act with the amount of hours some groups such as the Okanagan Hockey Academy and those running spring teams would like, adding that Penticton is a hockey city.
“I think what you’re seeing is, groups are wanting to be down here,” he said. “They look at our facilities and think, there are no other facilities like this that have the great accommodations. The inexpensive quality accommodations, especially in the spring time. We’re starting to get a reputation for that.”
Sharlene Deverill-Franklin, whose son plans to play for the Flames this season, said it’s incredibly frustrating the city is allowing hockey to dominate sport in the city.
“There is a lot of kids that play lacrosse, my own kid, eats, breathes, sleeps lacrosse,” she said. “It’s the only thing he wants to do.”
She also noted the commissioner of the National Lacrosse League pushing to grow the sport “and we can’t do that within the city of Penticton.”
“Spectra has had the hockey school, there is a spring league team and there is some other try-out camps and junior camps that went to Spectra saying that if we could have the ice in April, May, we will bring teams here, we will use it,” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit.
When asked about the impact of playing in Summerland, which they have approval to do, she said they would be surprised to get any fans.
“It has to be Memorial for us or there is potential for our junior club to completely fold,” said Thompson, adding they will have a representative speak on their behalf at the council meeting. “We need our fan base to show up to games to help because its a non-profit organization. Right now we bring in around $450 to $650 with our fans coming to our games. With that and our sponsor, that is our operating money.”