Saskatchewan’s community rinks have faced untold pressures to stay open and meet operating cost commitments throughout the pandemic. That’s why the Saskatchewan Government’s Community Rink Affordability Grant Program has seen a welcome return.  This year, the Government reports that it contributed to 594 ice surfaces and 379 facility owners in the 2021-22 season. 

It’s been critical for the maintenance of ice surfaces throughout the area, including the hockey ice at the Elgar Petersen Arena and the Humboldt Curling Club, says Mike Ulriksen, director of Community and Leisure Services.

“It was nice to see that grant come back up online. Every little bit helps when it comes to trying to cover the expenses for the facility. Between taxation and user fees, sometimes we’re just scratching our heads trying to cover the growing expenses on the facility. We’re definitely happy the province is recognizing that the grant program is worthwhile, not only for our facility in Humboldt, but also for a lot of the smaller rinks around who rely solely on fundraising.”

With revenues having dropped in many locales due to pandemic restrictions, the grant is seen as vital in helping communities to rebuild their recreation prospects. 

“The $1.7 million allocated to the grant program is an important investment in community ice surfaces and curling rinks, which are important hubs for so many villages, towns, cities and First Nations communities across Saskatchewan," Parks, Culture and Sport Minister Laura Ross said. "We hear some tremendous feedback from local volunteers and users about how the investment helps keep activities affordable and community well-being strong."

The program is administered by the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association, a task the organization is happy to undertake, says SPRA President Jody Boulet.

 "Coming off a challenging two years, these facilities, along with all community recreation services and spaces, are more important than ever. The government's continued support of the program shows that it understands just how critical recreation environments are for both individual and community wellbeing."

Reinstated in 2020-21, the Community Rink Affordability Grant provides funding to help offset the costs of operating indoor skating and curling rinks in Saskatchewan. Communities, First Nations, schools, and nonprofits are eligible and encouraged to register for an annual grant per indoor ice surface. The program has been confirmed again for this coming year, with registration opening in the fall of 2022.

“The fact that we were able to get a bit of funding for both the curling rink and the EPA is phenomenal,” says Ulriksen. “We’re hoping they’ll slowly start increasing the amount that we get every year, but something is better than nothing.”