Christina Doll // City of Prince George
When avid curler Mike Peterson noticed a significant trending decline in the number of curlers in the city due to seemingly less interest in the sport, he also saw an opportunity to increase the multi-sport offerings at the Prince George Golf and Curling Club. After a few conversations with his business partner, Chris Hunter, they made a pitch to the Golf and Curling Club and opened the city’s first private ice rink in November 2020.
Northern ICE Sports operates a 2/3rds rink set-up on half of the ice previously designated for curling at the Golf and Curling Club. The blue and red curling ring face off circles and lines painted onto the playing surface are being used to pay homage to the new ice rink’s long history as a curling rink. Peterson got the idea to open a 3-on-3 or youth development rink after seeing them in different communities. “I have a son who is 10 and plays hockey and seeing a rink in Williams Lake that’s smaller, I wondered why we didn’t have something like this in Prince George.”
The business model for Northern ICE Sports includes renting ice to user groups, offering various programs for youth and adults, and providing skate sharpening. Youth programs include hockey development and power skating and adult training and league play will be offered once COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings are relaxed. They are also offering a multi-sport camp for youth over the spring break, which includes curling, climbing at the OVERhang Climbing Gym, basketball with Northern Bounce, soccer with Northern United FC, and hockey development with local NHL Alumni. Peterson and Hunter hope to eventually see the ice surface used by the ringette and figure skating communities in addition to the hockey community.
Opening an ice rink during a pandemic has not been without its challenges, but Peterson and Hunter are optimistic about the future. In order to make up for a forecast loss in potential revenue due to COVID-19 restrictions, they decided to offer advertising opportunities throughout the rink. “It was definitely tricky. We went into it with a business model knowing that the income under COVID-19 restrictions was going to be severely limited. It forced us to be innovative in that we’re taking advantage of the space we have to provide some cost-effective advertising for the community.”
They also found a way to support the Golf and Curling Club during the pandemic by working with staff to open the restaurant and lounge while the weekly youth program is running. Parents can sit in the restaurant and watch their kids learn while enjoying a meal. “It’s not a spectator area associated with the rink. The lounge and restaurant are completely separate. The kitchen opens up while people are there, which supports the Golf and Curling Club by allowing them to generate some revenue as parents have to order food and drink to sit in the restaurant,” says Peterson.
Community support for Northern ICE Sports has been very strong so far and Peterson and Hunter are looking forward to providing even more services to the community, including working with Tourism Prince George to offer a staycation package the includes ice time and a hotel stay.
About the author: Christina worked first as a radio journalist and then a public relations specialist in her hometown of Prince George for almost a decade before transitioning into her current role of Workforce Development Officer in the Economic Development Division at the City of Prince George. She has public and private sector experience in economic development, external and internal communications, marketing, social media and website management, event planning, and research. She has a passion for storytelling and for providing support to local businesses to help them grow and thrive.