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At Monday’s Committee of the Whole Meeting, Dean Hustwick, Director of Director of Recreation and Culture, will present an “interim” report on what to do with the three facilities owned and operated by the Town - the Cobourg Community Centre (CCC), the Memorial Arena and the Jack Heenan Arena,  He addresses the issue of the subsidy for the CCC and whether one of the old arenas should be mothballed.  He calls it “interim” and plans a further report by the end of 2017.

Below is a summary of Dean’s report. Most of the text below is a direct quote although some material has been omitted to shorten the report. The sequence has also been altered.  Download Dean’s full report here (10 pages).

Subsidy for CCC

  • Many of these comments and criticisms of the financial management of the CCC and the level of taxpayer subsidy are factually incorrect and are misleading to the public. The new Recreation and Culture Division will play an increasingly active role in communicating with all stakeholders in a very transparent and open manner to ensure the facts are well communicated and its programs and services well publicized
  • Public institutions have many goals and objectives that are intrinsically different than those of a profit driven organization. Because of these differences, public institutions cannot reasonably be expected to operate in the same manner, or evaluated against the same performance measures, as profit-driven entities. Unfortunately, not everyone understands this.
  • While public institutions most certainly must strive for effective and efficient operations and financial management excellence, they also pursue objectives that often conflict with profit-driven motives such as public accessibility, affordability and diversity.
  • It is for these reasons that most public institutions, particularly in the parks and recreation portfolio, are heavily subsidized to ensure their programs and services are accessed by as many people as possible rather than simply those who can pay the most.
  • The facts are that between 2012 and 2015 the annual subsidy averaged $736,000, although it reached $924,000 in 2015 and is expected to be the same or lower in 2016.
  • In 2016, the National (American) Recreation and Park Association published a Field Report on Park and Recreation Agency Performance Benchmarks [link not in Dean’s report] that concluded that a typical agency recovers only 29% of its operating expenses from non-tax revenues. That means that typical public agencies subsidize their operations by 71%. In comparison, in 2015, the facts indicate that the CCC recovered 55% of its operating expenses from non-tax revenues. That means that it subsidized only 45% of its operations instead of the typical 71%.

Food and Beverage

Dean HustwickDean HustwickFood and Beverage (F&B) services are offered at the main floor Café and, for larger events, at the second floor canteen and bar in the Bowl. The original design concept includes a lounge atmosphere for the Grand Hall and direct F&B service through the pass-through from the Café.

Recent furniture acquisitions and the installation of a big-screen television have started the transition of this space to that lounge atmosphere, although additional acquisitions and improvements are required.

There have been ongoing criticisms of the F&B services at the CCC related primarily to hours of operation, product selection and the length of lineups and delays when ordering during large events. There have also been criticisms of the CCC's lack of kitchen preparation space for catered events, which not only impedes the operation of events but has also led to lost business and limits future business opportunities.

Because of this, in 2015 an on-line survey was conducted with 438 respondents that provided feedback on the quality of F&B Services at the CCC.

Selected survey results, Food and Beverage (F&B) Purchases

  • 8% always purchase, 36% sometimes and 25% never;
  • Of those who never purchase, 88% is due to lack of variety;
  • Less than 1% purchase breakfast, 6% lunch and only 10% dinner, while 16% purchase just drinks and 67% snacks/treats.

F&B Improvements

  • If the CCC offered a greater variety of options, 55% said they would very likely purchase F&B while 38% said they would be somewhat likely to make purchases;
  • The CCC's F&B Services are already a profitable operation, having generated a profit in 2015 of approximately $50,000. However, to improve customer service and to support the new strategies to expand the utilization of the CCC, especially for major events like those being hosted at the CCC in 2017 (Mens' and Women's Ontario Curling Championships, 55+ Ontario Winter Games and the RBC Cup), three options have been prepared to expand significantly the CCC's F&B selection and speed of service:
Option Space Alterations Additional Equipment Additional F&B Benefits Approximate
1 None Duplicate single-portion
deep fryer
Small Increase to French
Fries/Chicken Fingers
2 Cafe expands into
Pro Shop by 20sf
2 Gas Deep Fryers
Gas Griddle
Hood/Fire Suppression
Mobile Food Carts
Increase in Food Selection Mobility $75,000
3 Cafe expands into
existing Pro Shop

Build New Pro Shop
in alcove under stairs
Same as Option 2 Plus
Additional Fridge/Freezer
6-Burner Gas Range
Catering Equipment:
Convection Oven
Prep Tables
Hot Wells
Induction Warmer
Additional Fire Suppression
Same as Option 2 Plus
Expanded Food Selection/Options
Increased Payment Capacity
Enhanced Catering Capacity

These changes will improve profitability in the long-run and help to establish a social and cultural centre for the community. Furthermore, quality F&B Services will become even more essential if a new aquatic facility is built as an addition to the CCC in partnership with the YMCA. As the utilization of the CCC increases, so too will the hours of operation and profitability of the F&B Services.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee recommend option 3 and this expenditure will be put to a vote by Council.

Facility Utilization Rates

Preliminary calculations of the CCC arenas and the Memorial Arena are as follows (Jack Heenan is leased to the WNCC and is not included):

  2014 2015 2016 (To-Date)
  Prime-Time Non-Prime Prime-Time Non-Prime Prime-Time Non-Prime
  % % % % % %
Bowl 80 19 74 26 79 33
Pond 82 45 68 50 79 47
Memorial 63 n/a 72 n/a 68 n/a

The Memorial Arena is only staffed and utilized during prime time. After the ice has been taken out, the facility is used for lacrosse on those occasions when the CCC Bowl is in use.

The following are the preliminary average utilization calculations for the warm side of the CCC for the year 2015, based on combining the averages of two scheduling periods (0900— 1600 and 1600  2200):



Hours Used

Total Available Hours

Utilization %

Bea's Place




Cameco A




Cameco B




Cameco C




Gym A




Gym B




HTM Room




Seniors' Centre




Youth Room




Whitelaw Room




A number of preliminary strategies have been identified for enhancing utilization of the CCC and generating additional revenue – see full report.

[End of direct quotes]

Memorial Arena

Given that the County will be conducting an area-wide recreation study in 2017 and due to the large provincial and national sporting events in 2017, some regular programming at the CCC must be relocated to the Memorial Arena to avoid disrupting regular local activities.  The facility is in good shape although “a number of capital improvements are required for ongoing use” so will remain open with a further review by the end of 2017.  It was built in 1953.

Jack Heenan Arena

This has been leased to the West Northumberland Curling club (WNCC) since 2011 although that lease has now expired and a renewal must be negotiated.  Some maintenance money needs to be spent on it before too long.  It was built in 1976.

Dean recommends “that the lease with the WNCC for the Jack Heenan Arena be extended to 2017 to provide the WNCC with the opportunity to complete the Ontario Men's and Women's Curling Championships, assess their short- and long-term needs and determine their future potential interest”.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Dean recommends:

  • Spending $160,000 to improve the Food and Beverage service,
  • Continuing to operate the Memorial and Jack Heenan Arenas for at least another year

He also wants to:

  • Expand CCC utilization rates
  • Improve communication with the public on why the CCC should be subsidized and that it’s already a relatively small subsidy.

It’s good to see the Parks and Recreation Portfolio getting this much attention and 2017 looks to be a big year for the CCC.


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