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New lease agreement authorized for North Stars

Three-year deal includes increase in operating grant for the North Stars to $6,000.
NB council Aug 15 North Stars
The North Stars’ Shandon Reichert speaks to city council Aug. 15 on the club’s lease agreement discussions.

NORTH BATTLEFORD — The Battlefords North Stars have come to a new lease agreement with the city of North Battleford.

The three-year lease agreement has been negotiated between the North Stars and the city, running for the period Aug. 1, 2022 to July 31, 2025. Council voted in favour of authorizing the lease renewal on Monday at their council meeting at Don Ross Centre.

The North Stars’ Shandon Reichert gave an update to council on the lease discussions, and a few notable changes in the lease agreement were highlighted. The main change noted was an increase in the operating grant from the city to the North Stars, which goes up from $2,000 to $6,000 per season. 

The main reason for the change is to address increased costs for the club. Reichert noted they were expecting those expenses to go up 30 per cent this year, mostly in travel and fuel/busing costs.

“This year is going to be a real struggle for the club,” said Reichert of the cost situation. 

Another issue the club hopes to reverse is a decline in attendance. Reichert noted the attendance was down from 831 per game in 2019, to 680 on average per game last season.

The North Stars were able to get a full season in at Access Communications Centre in 2021-22, but the club was impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, with masking and proof of vaccination requirements imposed for a significant portion of last season. The North Stars had posted a financial loss for last season.

Reichert said the club is looking at “some new directions” to increase their attendance, and feel with COVID-19 at bay they can get attendance back to where they were before. 

One area where the club believes they can attract fans is through the club’s local hockey players. Reichert said they will have upwards of six local hockey players that came up through Battlefords Minor Hockey in their lineup, which they hope will bring people back. A local product, Jake Southgate, will be the captain this year.

The North Stars have also been selected for the 2023 Hall of Fame Weekend, which will “provide a small economic boom for the area,” he said, with hotel bookings and visitors coming in for the event. This event will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the club in the SJHL in 2023. 

As for the decision to increase the operating grant from the city, the North Stars are going that route as it was pointed out the club wasn’t eligible to apply for the community grants program funded through Sask Lotteries. 

Director of Parks and Recreation Cheryl DeNeire confirmed there was a clause preventing “semi-professional” clubs from applying.