Council made the right decision in voting to make room for lacrosse in Memorial Arena this spring.
The councillors were being asked to choose whether to leave the ice in for a number of spring hockey groups — including local and external commercial operations — or remove the ice so Penticton Minor Lacrosse would have a proper space to conduct their season.
With little or no consultation with the PMLA, Spectra went ahead and booked ice users for Memorial Arena through most of the spring; users that Spectra regional manager Dean Clarke said were likely to cancel if they were offered space at McLaren Arena instead of Memorial.
Discussion among the councillors swayed back and forth, but in the end, they voted 6-1 in favour of supporting the local organization over income.
Let’s be clear. Spectra is doing a great job at generating revenue from the facilities they manage for the City of Penticton. And drawing tourists to the city, whether for sports events, spring camps or concerts, is a very welcome way of bringing fresh cash to the city for all tourism stakeholders, especially in April and May, prior to the main tourist season.
But the city’s facilities, like Memorial Arena, were built, first and foremost, to serve the needs of Penticton ratepayers. Local groups — especially ones like the PMLA, who have used the arena every spring for many years — should be given a higher priority than commercial organizations, especially those from outside the city.
There’s a good chance this same argument will come up again next year. But instead of allowing that to happen council should be proactive and set up a priority list for Spectra to follow. Spectra is, after all, following their mandate in trying to maximize revenue from the arenas.
City council needs to step in and establish a better mandate, one that puts local groups ahead of dollars, especially when it comes to repeat users.