Sports organizations in Saint John say they will feel the pinch of two new cost-saving measures proposed by the city.
They come as Saint John council tries to offset operating costs amid a projected $11-million budget deficit. The items were outlined at a public meeting last week.
Among them, a recreation user card for non-Saint John residents, much like the one youth hockey players faced last year, but this time covering all sports using city facilities.
Chris Green, a director with Hockey New Brunswick, said about 125 fewer players registered in Saint John this year compared to the 2018-19 season.
He says he’s not sure if the user card program, which was scrapped for the season after the Saint John Hotel Association agreed to cover the costs, caused the decline.
“It was reported to us in the meeting that only 50 per cent of the city population went and obtained a card,” Green said.
“To me, that says there was no appetite among city residents to actually implement this program, so I think we need to find a different solution.”
A spike in rental fees for fields and facilities is also on the horizon.
Kevin Ferguson is the president of Saint John Alpines Baseball Program, which includes senior and junior men’s teams. He also manages the senior club.
He said field rental costs for the two teams will jump from about $6,000 last year to $16,000-$20,000 in 2021. He said the senior team will fold if that happens, and he believes the rental fee hikes are already in place.
“It seems like the city, right now, wants to divest itself out of as much recreation as possible,” Ferguson said.
City staff declined to comment on the proposals until they’re debated in an open session of Common Council.
On Tuesday, Mayor Don Darling told Global News implementing that type of system won’t make the city sustainable.
He said it’s the lack of a cost-sharing agreement between Saint John and outlying communities that makes these proposals necessary.
“We have this regional collaboration committee that’s working on sharing services and bringing a formula of equitable cost sharing to the greater region,” Darling said.
“I hope that we’re successful there by the end of March.”
Both Green and Ferguson say their organizations have submitted letters to the city asking them to reconsider the changes.