Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe receives a donation cheque from Free Press publisher Ed Cowley, the publication’s sponsorship of public skating in Morinville. – Ashley Janes Photo
by Ashley Janes
The owner of Morinville’s Free Press newspaper, Ed Cowley, surprised Council on Tuesday night with a $2,500 donation towards public skating at the Ray McDonald arena. Council was preparing to evaluate their options regarding rink rates when Chief Administration Officer Debbie Oyarzun announced the good news.
The discussion was originally added to Council’s agenda when the Morinville and District Agricultural Society announced that they would no longer be able to sponsor public skating. Unable to secure another sponsor, the Town had to consider other options.
One of those options was to charge a user rate per patron. Season passes would range from $22 for youths, $35 for adults and $80 for a family. Another option was for the Town to absorb the cost themselves, ultimately continuing free access by taking a chunk out of the annual operating budget.
In their report to Council, Town Administration explained that the cost of any given public skating event is generated by staffing. The facility requires up to three on-site staff members to effectively operate, with each staff member earning a minimum wage of $10 per hour.
Prior to 2010, the Town of Morinville had charged arena patrons in order to meet the cost recovery of such an event, however public attendance while doing so was low. Once the Agricultural Society began sponsoring public skates, Morinville staff reported seeing a drastic increase in arena usage, from as few as ten patrons on Sundays increasing to more than fifty. Now, thanks to Cowley, the arena can continue to host these high traffic public skates.
When asked about his decision to donate, Cowley explained that free public skating has benefits outside of the administrative of theoretical, which are seen directly by its participants. “It’s people who take their kids and keep the money in their pocket, so it’s a real benefit rather than a theoretical benefit. It just seemed like something we should do.”
Immediately after the meeting adjourned, Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe posted on his Facebook page, expressing his gratitude for Cowley’s support. “We live in a community where our businesses step up time and time again to sponsor and support family events. As a result of taking on the sponsorship, public skating will remain free for families.”
Skating programs at the Ray McDonald arena include family friendly public skating, youth shinny and adult shinny. For more information regarding public skating, call 780-939-7839.