Oswego’s Ice Fee To Go Under The Microscope

OSWEGO, NY – City officials and representatives from the Oswego Minor Hockey Association hope to come to a compromise so youngsters won’t get frozen out of the popular Port City sport.

At Monday night’s Physical Services Committee, Council President Ron Kaplewicz requested a discussion on behalf of the OMHA regarding fees for use of the ice rinks in the 2011 – 2012 hockey season.

John Rice, acting president of the OMHA, said the organization has been a part of Oswego since 1964. It is a non-profit organization.

“Our mission is to give an opportunity to youth to play hockey and get involved in a structured sport, no matter what their economic situation may be,” he said.

They get revenue from registration fees, tournaments, sponsorship and concessions, he noted.

“In the last 10 years, we have had an over 300 percent increase in ice fees. And, our registration fee has increased over 256 percent. So, ice fees are directly related to what we have to pass on to our membership. In the last 10 years, we have also lost 51 players,” Rice said.

The tournaments are a big thing for the organization and the city, he pointed out.

They sponsor four tournaments in the Port City.

“In these tournaments, we have roughly 15 outside teams coming into Oswego for the weekend. That relates to about 225 players, which with a parent and a half, we’re pushing 500 people using our hotels, restaurants and other services. So, in a way, we help the economics of Oswego,” Rice told the councilors.

The group is also very charitable, Rice said. Teams have collected pet supplies and food for the SPCA, at Thanksgiving time several teams get involved with food drives, team members also take part in toy drives for Catholic Charities at Christmas time as well as other fundraisers, he said.

“Right now, we’re finally at a breaking point. You can see what we’re charging people, last year it was just shy of $400. And, when we set our budget in May, we were given a price increase in the fall. We came out of last year losing $5,000,” Rice said.

This year’s cost per child will likely be more than $400 a player, he added.

“Quite frankly, that’s a house payment for some people,” he said.

The association’s annual operating budget is $197,000. Just over $100,000 is for ice fees, Rice said.

The city is looking for ways to maintain its costs to run the rinks, and possibly pass the reductions on to the OMHA, DPW Commissioner Mike Smith noted.

“This is a feeder program for all the other hockey programs that are successful in the city. Certainly, we don’t want to see the numbers decline,” Cosemento said.

Kaplewicz pointed out that the city has some opportunities for money-making events at the ice rinks. For example, he pointed to the recent Oz Roller Girls roller derby event.

“They had about 800 people attend their event at the rink. That is pretty significant,” he said. “As a council and as a city we need to sit down and rethink the rate structure, the whole fee system, to some extent. And see are we optimizing opportunities for the community to provide something good for the kids to do, public service so to speak, and what we charge those that are commercial venues. I think we need to look carefully at the costs that we are charging.”

A meeting will be scheduled between city and hockey officials to discuss possible cost reductions for both.