June 20th, 2024

Poor game attendance being linked to paid parking for Hurricanes


By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on November 9, 2022.

Herald file photo by Al Beeber A parking kiosk sits in front of the Enmax Centre.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge city council acting as Economic Standing Policy Committee on Tuesday morning accepted as information a report from the Lethbridge Hurricanes on the impact paid parking is having on revenue five home games into the season.

The presentation to SPC was made by Trevor Lewington, chair of the governance committee, board of governors and Terry Huisman, general manager of business operations for the Western Hockey League club.

The SPC was told that while the Hurricanes had a 99 per cent renewal rate on season tickets, numbers from pre-COVID are still down about 10 per cent. Since paid parking was instituted at the Enmax Centre this fall for almost all facility patrons except Canes season ticket holders, the club has seen between 400 and 500 fewer people attend games.

In 2019-20, the team had an average of 1,245.6 walk-up fans in each of the first five games of the season. This season, the first with no COVID restrictions since 2019-20, the club is averaging 747 walk-up sales per game.

Group tickets have dropped to an average per game of 127.6 from 674.6 in 2019-20.

No parking is charged to people attending smaller functions that are held in the facility’s banquet rooms and an exception is also being made for an upcoming first-of-its-kind trade fair at the facility.

That loss in attendance revenue poses a threat to the financial viability of the hockey team which is hoping to prepare a bid to host the 2026 Memorial Cup, the SPC heard.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen asked the club if they could come up with any suggestions for council to consider to alleviate the financial strain.

Huisman said the club is willing to work with administration on possible solutions to the revenue shortfall caused by paid parking including the implementation of a service charge on each ticket. He said an option such as a 50 cent charge on each ticket is something the Canes would be willing to discuss with City administration.

Hyggen told city manager Lloyd Brierley that there is an importance to keeping council up to date on those discussions while councillor Mark Campbell urged the parties to keep discussions going so a solution can be found.

After five games, revenue from the 50/50 draw held each game has dropped by 33 per cent and is on pace to fall short of budget by $66,000.

The team, which also contributes about $60,000 annually to charity, says its efforts to help raise funds for community groups is being impacted. Annually, the total raised including the club’s own donations amount to more than $175,000.

The SPC was told the impact of $5 parking is heavier on people who pay $20 for a hockey ticket than on those who are paying three figures to attend concerts.

Lewington said if the five-game attendance trend continues, the club will be facing a financial loss at season’s end.

Enmax Centre general manager Kim Gallucci, in response to a question, said parking has raised about $5,000 after five games, which is slightly below projections. In total, paid parking has generated about $12,000 for the Enmax Centre with enforcement and other costs amounting to about $2,000. The cost of the parking equipment was $60,000.

Only three other WHL cities charge for parking – Calgary, Edmonton and Kelowna where the arena is privately owned, the SPC heard. All other mid-sized cities with WHL clubs that initiated paid parking have since dropped it, the Canes presenters said.

Huisman told the SPC that if parking is having an impact on its sales, the club reasonably can assume it’s impacting Enmax Centre concession sales and Gallucci stated the facility has seen a five to 10 per cent decrease.

The SPC heard that prior to the 2015-16 season, the team was more than $1 million in debt and unable to meet payroll or its education liability commitments, and such losses are a possibility looking forward if it can’t break even or make a profit. The club, says a report presented to the SPC, has turned a profit for seven straight seasons.

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Say What . . .

We all saw that coming! Our great thinkers in City Hall!

oh_no

Parking costs at the Enmax center is laughable. Lethbridge doesn’t have the infrastructure to easily move people to and from the Enmax making vehicles the primary mode of transit to and from events. Calgary has the C Train station outside the Saddledome. This system is capable of moving the crowds to and from games in a timely manner. The patrons at the Saddledome are also very use to this system and travel times as most of them use it very often if not daily. The size of the Saddledome’s seating makes a parking space for every two patron almost impossible, so parking can be considered a luxury. They can and should charge for parking. Lethbridge and the Enmax does not have the same constraints or issues. This is comparing apples to oranges when deciding to implement parking charges with one justification being “because Calgary does”.
This in a city that can’t even make the downtown core parking meters cost effective and decide to raise the parking fines in a attempt to mitigate the losses on enforcing parking fee costs.
I have not and will not pay to park at the Enmax. I have quit going to hockey games, passed on Bryan Adams (sorry Bryan), and have no intention of attending any event at the Enmax until parking fees are removed. I WILL NOT PAY TO PARK AT THE ENMAX.