Thursday, September 17, 2009

Provincial Cuts Hit Smokies

The Trail Smoke Eaters got some bad financial news from the province yesterday. Their annual BC gaming grant was slashed from $25,000 last season to only $7,500 this season. They at one time got as much as $40,000 from the province. Only community owned teams can apply for the funding, but Smokies President Tom Gawryletz couldn't tell me if the cuts had impacted the other three community owned clubs in the BCHL. As for Trail, after two straight seasons with losses over $20,000 (including $34,000 last season) there is now some urgency to find more revenue. They certainly can't afford to mirror last season's numbers but with an additional $17,500 added to their losses. Gawryletz says they could surely break even if they put 100 to 150 more fans every game into the Cominco Arena. What is it going to take to do that? Surely some marketing could play a part in it (anyone have any brilliant ideas?) but the key is probably winning.

No pressure!

It's up to the community. The BCHL financial landscape is what it is. Trail has the toughest travel schedule of any team in the league, and they don't have a wealthy private owner to absorb any losses. This is what it's going to cost to run a BCHL club. If 950 fans a game isn't going to cut it, the people of Trail are going to either have to get their butts into the rink or accept a ticket back to the KIJHL. Some clubs could thrive on Trail's hardcore 900+ fan base. I think Merritt would probably kill for those kinds of numbers on a regular basis. However, Trail's bills are higher and that's just the way it is. I'm not saying the executive is on the cusp of puling the plug. I get no sense of that at all. I'm just saying you can't take blood from a stone. If losses pile up in that range every season eventually the money is going to run out.

I'm not going to get into the political side of this. It's unfortunate the Campbell government waited until what seems like the very last minute to let some of these organizations know the hole they're going to be in. However, times are tough. If it comes down to cutting a nurse or cutting a grant to a hockey team... well make your own call. I just don't like the way that these cuts have really caught so many organizations off guard. Whether it's a charity or sports or anything else there are people who rely on those organizations for the services they provide or just to make a living as an employee. If you'd like to see them supported you now have to vote with your wallet.

Here's Tom...

Smokies President Tom Gawryletz

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