It’s not news the Lethbridge Hurricanes were expecting.
The fee would be $5 per vehicle, using the city’s current parking system through the mobile phone app or kiosks at the venue.
As its main tenant, the WHL hockey organization felt consultation was missing.
“The biggest thing is the lack of communication,” said Hurricanes president Doug Paisley. “We weren’t aware there was a vote. We weren’t aware it was going to be put in front of council.”
The recommendation to implement paid parking was made in a 2019 KPMG report, something Paisley said he was aware of. It was initially approved in 2020 by the previous council but delayed in part due to the pandemic.
The Hurricanes issued a full statement regarding its feelings on the situation on Tuesday afternoon, explaining the decision isn’t something it supports.
Despite season ticket holders being exempt from the parking fee, Paisley said he isn’t confident it will sit well with fans. Some might even choose not to come to the venue as often, he worries.
“If they pay $5 before they get in the door, we’re fearful that they’re not going to spend it inside,” he said. “The net revenue gain on the parking is probably going to be a net revenue loss on concession, (etc.).”
In response, the city said it values its partnership with the Hurricanes and will continue to work with the organization in implementing the initiative.
“We have provided the information and context we felt the community needed and the Hurricanes have done the same,” a statement from the city read.
“We will be going back to them to discuss this further through in-person meetings rather than using our media to have that discussion.”
Merrick Sutter, senior vice-president of the Red Deer Rebels, said paid parking at the Peavey Mart Centrium recently became a huge point of contention for fans.
Westerner Park, a non-profit organization that operates the Centrium, removed their parking fee in January 2021, which was between $7 to $10 per vehicle for major events.
There was also a $1 facility fee charged on event tickets. Now, parking is free and there is a $1 to $2 facility fee.
Sutter said paid parking in cities the size of Red Deer and Lethbridge isn’t very common.
While there is no way of directly correlating fan attendance to the introduction of paid parking, he said he knows it was a deterrent for some.
“It’s (about having) a barrier-free option,” he said. “All you had to do around here was to open your ears and listen to your fans and it was topic number one.”
Scheduled to come into effect Sept. 1, the change will also see Lethbridge College students being required to pay to park their vehicles in the lot.