May 3, 2021 - For sports organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on their operations. Most being non-profits, they have limited budgets and large expenses to operate. Their organization’s mandates are all about facilitating large gatherings of people for fun and physical activity. Activities that have been prohibited from the very beginning of the pandemic. For sports organizations, government supports have been a crucial lifeline during the past year.
It has been a year of these “unprecedented times”. The race between vaccines and the virus is nearing the final few bends and the world will soon revert to a different form of “new normal”. For small businesses and organizations, this has been a dark year; lockdowns, restricted gathering limits and stay-at-home orders have had huge impacts. Some didn’t make it. Others were able to stay alive through the various government supports that have been offered to help organizations make it to the finish line.
Here are two examples of sports organizations in Northern Ontario that have used the government supports to successfully survive:
Mount Jamieson Resort in Timmins, a non-profit-run winter sports facility, was heavily impacted by the pandemic-related shutdowns. With the Province specifically shuttering ski resorts across Ontario at a critical point in their seasonal revenues, it left much uncertainty in these operations' resiliency and continued viability. Mount Jamieson availed itself of the Ontario Small Business Support Grant, the initial $20,000 which sought to bridge the gap but was merely a drop in the proverbial bucket. While the additional $20,000 top-up provided some relief towards the massive expense in seasonal start-up costs, it did not address the looming deficit that was to come. The hill also received an Energy Assistance grant from the Province that cleared the resort of its sizable Hydro bill, which improved the operation's financials.
Among the available and eligible grants was the Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF) administered by FedNor. This funding was made non-repayable to any eligible non-profit organization and, in the end, provided just over $300,000 in critical support and brought the resort back into good health. The resort is very appreciative to the Province and the Federal government for recognizing their organization as a pillar of health and sports excellence in the North and look forward to operating status quo, come healthier times.
Curl Sudbury, a not-for-profit curling centre, is over 125 years old. As one of Sudbury’s oldest sports organizations, it would be a shame to see one pandemic cause them to close. In 2019, they had just installed a new cement floor on their arena surface with the help of an Ontario Trillium Grant so they can use the space year round for social gatherings and sports which has been restricted for most of the pandemic. Using the federal government supports such as CEBA, CERS, and provincial supports such as the Ontario Small Business Support Grant allowed Curl Sudbury to keep up with their utility and building maintenance costs. Using what infrastructure they have, Curl Sudbury decided that they can host weekly takeout nights to generate a small bit of revenue as food service is allowed during lockdowns. Using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), they were able to subsidize the salary of their cook to operate takeout specials so they can generate a bit of revenue during a time when they would not be able to operate at all. These nights have been successful, close to- or selling out- each Thursday. Without CEWS, these nights would not be profitable at all, meaning that their cook would probably have to continue being laid off for the remainder of the pandemic.
Sports organizations have been one of the many casualties of the pandemic. Despite physical activities being good for mental and physical health, the risk of gathering inside in large groups for team sports has been too dangerous. These organizations will be crucial to the recovery of Ontario as people’s mental and physical health have been compromised this past year. These organizations offer a community and their re-opening will be a lifeline to those who have been isolated or lacking physical activity this past year. With the success of the government supports, these organizations will hopefully be able to make it to the finish line.
Evelynn Hoffman is the Outreach and Development Officer at NPI.
Special thanks to Cameron Grant from Timmins Chamber of Commerce for writing about Mount Jamieson Resort.
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