Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

City dwellers to get first dibs

Others will just have to wait for Leisure Guide registration

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St. Andrews resident Andrea Braz, with her son, Miguel, says new rules will make it very difficult for non-Winnipeggers to register for Leisure Guide programs.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

St. Andrews resident Andrea Braz, with her son, Miguel, says new rules will make it very difficult for non-Winnipeggers to register for Leisure Guide programs. Photo Store

Non-Winnipeggers who flock to sign their kids up for skating, swimming or just about anything else at city community centres got yanked to the back of the line Friday.

New residency rules in the city's winter Leisure Guide impose restrictions on out-of-town registrations for the first time, making them wait a week after registration opens before they can sign up for classes and programs.

That means people who live outside city limits will have to register for what's left after Winnipeg residents get first dibs on programs.

City residents will have first choice on programs offered in city centres starting Dec. 10 for swimming lessons and Dec. 11 for everything else.

It will be Dec. 17 before registration opens for residents from satellite communities.

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The news is tough to swallow for some outside Winnipeg.

"It's discouraged me from registering, honestly," said Andrea Braz, of St. Andrews, who has in the past enrolled seven-year-old son Miguel in a swimming program at Seven Oaks pool.

Braz has in the past lined up at Seven Oaks on registration day while her mother worked the phones, just to get a spot on the first day of registration.

"If you're not on the phone or logged into the website, there's no way," Braz said, noting that after a week the number of spots and programs available would be "slim pickings."

"I'll never get a spot," she said.

Currently, residents with addresses outside city limits pay 20 per cent more per program, per child. That won't change, even with the restrictions on registering.

Shelly Marques, also of St. Andrews, understands why city taxpayers would get first crack at city programs and facilities. "That's definitely a valid argument," she said.

But Marques, a mother of two, added, "There are so many things that are interesting for me and my kids (in the Leisure Guide). There aren't the same amount of programs out here or in Selkirk. It's a challenge."

The city offers hundreds of classes but swimming and skating lessons will be impacted the most because they are the most popular.

The city's reasoning is it's city residents who pay the taxes that build the centres, so they deserve to be first in line for the services.

"It's to provide Winnipeggers the first opportunity to register for programs before registration opens up for non-residents," said Dan Prokopchuk, the city's manager of community development and recreation.

"I'm told it was an administrative decision to give first preference to people who are residents as opposed to people who live outside of Winnipeg," said St. Vital Coun. Brian Mayes, chairman of the city's protection and community services committee.

"Certainly this wasn't something that came before me as committee chair."

What it means is simple, said Shawn Wilkinson, recreation director for the RM of Springfield. Commuters will have to wait until it's too late to sign up.

He said the rule change will disappoint a lot of parents who rely on city pools for swimming lessons.

"A lot of our parents register for swimming lessons and this means it would be tight for Springfield residents to get in," Wilkinson said. "I'm not surprised. I understand how hard it is to get into the swimming lessons and I understand how the city would want to serve its residents first.

"It is what it is."

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 30, 2013 A3

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