By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
Council has agreed to lower facility rental fees for one of the province’s largest youth soccer tournaments which draws thousands of people to the city annually.
For two weekends in early-May, more than 300 teams from across the province will gather in Oshawa for the 17th annual Frank Sobil Spring Classic, hosted by the Oshawa Kicks Soccer Club.
The event serves as a fundraiser for the club, president Will Thurber told members of finance committee at a recent meeting.
The Civic Recreation Complex will host a number of games during the tournament.
According to Thurber, the club is facing $10,650 in fees to rent fields at the Civic during the tournament.
If the club has to pay that amount, Thurber says it will lead to a $4,000 loss.
“As a fundraising tournament, it makes no economic sense to lose $4,000,” he told the committee.
As a result, he requested the fees be reduced to $2,400, as this is what the club would pay for using similar facilities in Whitby or Pickering.
However, Thurber said Oshawa Kicks has no interest in holding the event in another community, as it would not have the same impact.
“This is why we want to be here in Oshawa, we don’t want to be in Pickering, we don’t want to be in Whitby…,” he said.
Last year, the city granted Oshawa Kicks a one-time partnership grant which reduced the rental fees for the Civic Recreation Complex by $4,000.
Ward 5 regional councillor Brian Nicholson initially took some issue with Thurber’s request.
“What is not sitting well with me is saying you are going to go elsewhere,” Nicholson said.
However, Thurber clarified he had only mentioned Whitby and Pickering for the sake of comparison.
Thurber and Nicholson went back and forth on the issue, as the veteran councillor said he felt the club wants the city to subsidize its rental rates.
Thurber said they were not looking for a subsidy, or for the city to “cut a cheque to Oshawa Kicks.”
He said the tournament will attract 40,000 people and boost the local economy by $2 million, and wondered if there would be any hesitation to reduce fees for a new event that promised the same impact.
Thurber said he felt he was being unfairly criticized by Nicholson.
“I’m not asking you for a subsidy, I’m asking for a reduced rate,” he repeated, adding the club pays approximately $300,000 annually in fees to the city.
Speaking in support of Thurber’s request, Ward 2 regional councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri said he felt the city has “quite high” rental rates.
He called the tournament a “signature event” that helps to put Oshawa on the map.
“I have a direct understanding of just how much goes into the community [as a result of the event] by speaking to a lot of the kids and coaching staff,” Marimpietri said. “I would see the Oshawa Kicks as one of the main tenants of the [Civic Recreation Complex].”
Ward 3 regional councillor Bob Chapman supported providing another $4,000 grant but had some concerns.
“Why are we getting this request at the 11th hour,” he asked.
He thinks applying to the city’s partnership grant program during next year’s budget would better serve the club.
“Maybe we’d be able to help them in a different way, and not so much off the cuff of a committee – a week before we go to council,” Chapman said.
The committee eventually supported knocking down the rental fees for the tournament, but a decision still requires final approval of council.