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Paying for ice time to private business did not sit well with association
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, tough economic times have gotten a whole lot tougher, and as Mark Sexton suggests, there will be no hockey rinks constructed in metro St. John’s anytime soon.
So the Avalon Celtics Minor Hockey Association acted quickly when opportunity came about.
“We called Gary Wadden,” said Sexton, the president of Avalon minor of the owner of Feildian Gardens, a 1960s-era hockey rink in centre city St. John’s. “We asked, ‘What if?’ And we started talking.
“The rink was not for sale, but we both worked out a deal we felt made sense.”
The City of St. John’s is providing a loan guarantee of $2.5 million, a direct loan of $400,000, and a $100,000 capital grant to the minor hockey association to purchase Feildian Gardens from Wadden and Northpoint Sports.
Avalon Celtics has previously operated out of Yetman’s Arena on Bonaventure Avenue. Prior to that, the rink was known as Rogers Bussey Arena.
The minor hockey association had used that rink as its home base going all the way back to the 1980s when it was known as Bro. O’Hehir Arena and owned by the Roman Catholic church. At the time, the minor hockey association was Celtics minor hockey, and prior to that, the Christian Brothers Minor Hockey Association.
However, the rink became privatized under Rogers Bussey and Yetman’s ownership, which did not sit well with Avalon Celtics minor.
“The basic premise,” Sexton said, “was we were the only minor hockey association paying to private business, an arrangement we weren’t ever happy with.
“We’re the seventh-largest association in the province, and our registration fees were going to a for-profit entity.”
“We’re the seventh-largest association in the province, and our registration fees were going to a for-profit entity.” — Mark Sexton
The result was hourly ice-time fees north of $200.
“The vast majority of (minor hockey) associations play in municipally-owned arenas,” Sexton said, alluding to Twin Rinks in St. John’s and the Goulds Arena.
Twin Rinks is run by the not-for-profit Avalon Arenas Association. When that facility was built decades ago, land was provided by the city to make it happen.
A community group operates the Goulds Arena, and the city provides assistance through capital grants.
The incorporated new owner of Feildian Gardens is a separate entity from Avalon Celtics. It’s now known as Celtics Centre Hockey Corporation.
AMHA is VERY pleased to share this exciting news about our new #Home... Feildian Gardens See you on Pennywell Road in...Posted by Avalon Celtics Minor Hockey on Monday, May 11, 2020
Sexton said the association was using 34 hours per week at Yetman’s Arena and another seven hours weekly at St. Bon’s Forum for the association’s Under-9 program.
All programming from Under-7 to U-18 will be consolidated at Feildian Gardens. The association will also relocate its office to Feildian Gardens.
Excess ice time not used by minor hockey will be rented to user groups, such as recreation hockey, Sexton said.
Naming rights to the building may be sold, in addition to advertising on wall space inside.
“Everything is for sale,” he said. “We have tradition there, we have history.”
According to the book, Edward Field: The Man and his Legacy by former Bishop Field College headmaster Edgar House, the Feildians Athletic Association was formed in April, 1899, and over the years Feildians teams have battled on the baseball field, soccer pitch, basketball court and hockey rinks, in addition to other sports.
Some of hockey’s all-time greats wore the Feildians double blue, including the famous (Bud) Duffett-(Stan) Breen-(Doug) Squires St. John’s senior hockey line, Billy Martin, Doug House and Tols Chapman.
Hockey Night in Canada Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Cole was also a famous Feildian, having played hockey, baseball and soccer.
The gem of the Association is the Feildian Grounds off Portugal Cove Rd. Feildian Gardens was opened in 1965.
The minor hockey association will retain key rink operations staff thus retaining knowledge of the facility, and due diligence was completed to assess the long-term integrity of the arena structure and ice plant, with no issues identified.
In the meantime, Yetman’s Arena co-owner Patrick Yetman Jr. says his rink is left with a lot of ice time hours to fill with Avalon Celtics off to Feildian Gardens, and he’s hopeful the city can provide him with assistance.
“I just hope they don’t forget about the other two arenas that have been supplying ice time and recreation services to the kids in town for many, many years,” he told the CBC.
Yetman was referring to his rink and Capital Hyundai Arena, formerly Prince of Wales Arena which is a short distance from Feildian Gardens.