COVID-19 closures last year sent City of Winnipeg recreation revenues plummeting.

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This article was published 6/2/2021 (474 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

COVID-19 closures last year sent City of Winnipeg recreation revenues plummeting.

The city brought in less than $1.3 million at its arenas and indoor rinks throughout 2020, according to preliminary year-end figures that have not yet been audited. That’s down from about $2.6 million in 2019, the city confirmed Friday.

Swimming lesson revenues also took a massive dive, to $1 million in 2020 from $3.1 million in 2019. Fitness drop-in fees fell to $9,000 from $25,000, and rec facility drop-in fees fell to $19,000 from $66,000.

"Obviously, revenues that were expected in recreation services have not been realized because figure skating groups and hockey teams cannot rent arenas right now. Our city pools are closed, as well. Much of the services we provide through the leisure guide are not available also, so those numbers are not coming in," said Coun. Scott Gillingham, finance committee chairman.

"Obviously, that’s had an impact on the city’s finances."

Provincial public health orders forced the months-long shuttering of civic swimming pools, arenas and fitness centres in 2020, meant to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

As the pandemic drags on into 2021, Gillingham (St. James) said it’s not yet clear when such revenues might rebound.

He noted cost-cutting measures, including the temporary layoffs of hundreds of part-time community services staff in both April and November, will help offset last year’s losses.

Gillingham said it’s too soon to tell if lost revenues will spark further layoffs, but "it would not be financially responsible to staff empty facilities."

It’s also not clear if Winnipeggers could pay higher recreation fees in 2022; Gillingham said he doesn’t expect that will happen this year.

"The bigger concern for a city councillor is the impact on Winnipeggers, young and old, that no longer have those services available because of the lockdown… I’ve heard from many people who just really, really miss that kind of recreation and leisure activity," he said.

Coun. Sherri Rollins, chairwoman of the protection and community services committee, said cost concerns shouldn’t prevent the city from creating alternative, pandemic- safe leisure options.

"We started to ask the question and also reflect on Winnipeggers’ need for services throughout the pandemic, how they’ve changed and how we can adapt our services," said Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry).

"When it comes to recreation, there is a lot of our service that we absolutely just can’t deliver on, with respect to our public health orders."

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.