Skip to content

Eagles' request for lower rent turned down

Town council says current deal is fair; invitation made to Eagles to apply for community grant
MVT Innisfail Eagles Arena Rent
Innisfail town council has denied a request from the Innisfail Eagles senior men's hockey team to reduce their annual rent at the Innisfail Twin Arena from $3,600 to $2,600. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – Town council has turned down a request from the Innisfail Eagles to lower its rent at the arena.

The senior men’s hockey sent a letter to the town on Jan. 10. It was reviewed by town council at its regular meeting on Jan. 24.

In the letter, the Eagles' board of directors, citing decreasing revenues, requested the town reduce a recently -approved annual rental charge for their dressing room from $3,600 to $2,600.

The letter added the hockey team’s request is based on information received and researched from other hockey teams who are charged a rental fee by their municipalities for dressing room use in municipal facilities.

However, following council discussion the Eagles’ request was denied.

Brian Spiller, president of the hockey club, said the next step is simply paying what’s being asked of the town. In the meantime, he added, the club will move forward as best as it can.

“We’re OK but with the COVID times and the downturn in the economy it has affected admissions at the door and the amount of people coming to our games, so we were just trying to alleviate some of our burden but we understand the town’s position also and we’ll make do somehow,” said Spiller.

Before council’s final decision on the Eagles’ request, Meghan Jenkins, the town’s director of community services, noted the Eagles’ past lease agreement for the period of Dec. 1, 2017 through to Nov. 30, 2020 was also $3,600 annually, or $300 per month.

Jenkins said when that lease expired there was no ice available at the arena and a new lease was not pursued until the spring of 2021. She said the Eagles still had access to their dressing room during that entire time.

She said the hockey team was informed council would discuss the Eagles’ new lease agreement during last fall’s budget deliberations. It was decided the $3,600 lease agreement for 12 months ($300 per month) would not change.

Jenkins said the Eagles were told of council’s decision and were provided with a draft agreement at the same monthly rate but for a longer term, from Jan. 1, 2022 though to June 30, 2023. She said the town did not receive a reply prior to the end of 2021.

Jenkins said the hockey team was also informed in early January that invoicing would start at the end of the month, and a signed agreement was required.

Mayor Jean Barclay said the town’s monthly rate for the Eagles is “quite fair” compared to what other municipalities charge.

Barclay added the Eagles have year-round exclusive access to their professional dressing room, which includes an office and a shower room.

The $370,000 professional hockey dressing room was created for the men's hockey team at the west end of the arena lobby after the town approved a $195,000 contribution in 2016.

Jenkins said the town made “basic inquiries” around the region for recreational lease comparison, including an agreement between the Town of Penhold and the Red Deer Rustlers, a senior AA hockey team. That agreement includes a minimum $3,000 annual payment, as well as a community engagement requirement.

Jenkins told council the town also compared the Eagles’ lease to those for other local groups, including the Innisfail Minor Hockey Association, which rents an office and a storage room at the arena for $3,600 a year.

Coun. Gavin Bates, noting the team is now the only AAA senior men's squad in the country still operating west of Ontario, said the team may have to seriously review its internal operations.

“I think they have to look forward at what their business model is going to be, and figure out what they are, and I do believe their lease if fair,” said Bates, adding he regularly attends games and is aware the team is aiming to go to this year’s Allan Cup tournament in Ontario.

Bates suggested the team might be able to apply for one-time funding from the local Community Grant Program that could help them with this year’s goals. The year-round program offers grants of up to $2,500 for eligible programs that are related to arts and culture, parks and environment and recreation, sports and leisure.

Spiller told the Albertan on Jan. 28 it was an idea worth pursuing.

“We will look at anything that will help us square the accounts up,” said Spiller.

Council ended its discussion by approving a motion to confirm the new 18-month lease with the Innisfail Eagles at $300 per month.