With event attendance on the rise, the taxpayer subsidy for the Abbotsford Centre is forecast to dip to its lowest level yet in 2017, according to budget presentations for council earlier this week.
The city-owned facility will receive a $1.1 million subsidy for 2017 if council approves the budget submitted by staff. That is down from $1.2 million in 2016 and $1.6 million in 2015.
Five years ago, the city spent a combined $2.83 million on the city and the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League, which were guaranteed to break even.
The Heat left in 2014, but not before receiving $5.5 million to end their contract with the city.
Heidi Enns, the city’s parks, recreation and culture general manager, told council Monday that she hopes to see the subsidy reduced to $900,000 in the years to come.
That reduced financial support comes as the Abbotsford Centre reported more than a doubling of attendance at events through 2016. A total of 154,162 people have taken in 34 different events so far this year. That’s a sharp uptick from 2015, when 65,385 attended 17 events.
Mayor Henry Braun had previously expressed doubt that it would be possible to get the subsidy below $1 million.
Now, with the facility approaching that figure, he gave credit to city employees.
“We’ve made great strides and this is all without a major tenant and I think staff needs to be thanked for the effort and work that have gone into making that happen.”
Coun. Dave Loewen noted that the Abbotsford Centre isn’t the only city-owned facility to be subsidized by taxpayers. The city paid more than $1 million each to operate the Abbotsford Recreation Centre and the Matsqui Recreation Centre in 2015. Arenas not including Abbotsford Centre received $1.4 million in subsidies last year.