Ancaster, Ontario – Financial challenges have placed the continued operation of a local indoor soccer facility at risk.
For the past 10 years, Redeemer University College has operated a soccer dome that hosts thousands of youth and adult soccer players, in addition to participants in baseball, softball, football, and other activities. However, the facility has consistently lost money, and efforts to bring it to sustainability have failed.
The facility, one of the largest domes in the area, was completed in 2011. Redeemer provided the land and a significant amount of funding, while additional funds came via federal and provincial infrastructure funds and an interest-free loan from the City of Hamilton. The university partnered with the Ancaster Soccer Club (ASC); in exchange for fundraising money toward the initial cost of the dome, ASC was to receive guaranteed time in the facility at a heavily discounted rate, among other benefits.
According to Ed Bosveld, Redeemer’s Vice-President of Administration and Finance, those initial intentions were not realized. While Redeemer contributed both land and capital, ASC found itself unable to raise the funds it had committed. Instead, the club’s Board provided Redeemer with a pledge to raise $475,000. While that pledge was to be fulfilled between 2011 and 2016, the bulk of the money – approximately $390,000 – remains outstanding.
The facility has consistently lost money, and those losses have all been borne by Redeemer, which owns the facility. According to financial statements provided to ASC by Redeemer, the facility lost over $140,000 in 2017, $120,000 in 2018, and $98,000 in 2019. The facility budget for 2020 projects a loss of $134,000. In addition, the University has been paying $100,000 each year to the City in repayment of the initial loan.
Bosveld explains that a number of factors contribute to the operational red ink. ASC is entitled to 600 indoor hours per season at a 50 per cent discount of the regular rate for field rental. Although the partnership agreement does not provide for subletting, ASC has been re-selling its hours at a profit to other soccer groups. The end result, says Bosveld, is that ASC is generating revenue from the facility even while the facility loses money. ASC also exercises the right of first refusal provided in the partnership agreement to block out other soccer groups seeking to use the field. The unfulfilled capital pledges also have meant that the facility debt is higher than anticipated, and there are no capital reserves for future repairs.
Redeemer has made sustained efforts to work with ASC to create a more solid financial footing for the facility. These efforts have not been successful, and Redeemer has determined that it cannot continue to subsidize the operation. The University has advised the Board and legal counsel of ASC that it should secure alternative locations for its programs, should it become necessary for Redeemer to suspend the facility’s operations on January 1, 2020.
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