The 2012-13 season marked the fourth in a row that the Abbotsford Heat accrued a deficit that will be covered by the City of Abbotsford.

Updated: Heat shortfall for 2012-13 season is $1.66 million

The Abbotsford Heat's operating deficit for the 2012-13 season will cost local taxpayers $1.66 million.

The Abbotsford Heat’s operating deficit for the 2012-13 season will cost local taxpayers $1.66 million.

The City of Abbotsford released the numbers on Monday for year four of the 10-year supply fee agreement between the American Hockey League team anvd Global Spectrum, which manages the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre (AESC) on behalf of the city. The contract guarantees the Heat an annual break-even budget of $5.7 million to play out of the AESC.

In 2011-12, the public purse was tapped for $1.76 million.

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman termed the 5.7 per cent reduction of the previous season’s shortfall “a move in the right direction”, but noted “there’s room for improvement, lots of it.”

“We’re working very hard with our partners, both the Heat and Global Spectrum, in trying to improve the numbers,” he said.

“I’d love to say that there’s a magic formula for this, but it’s just incredibly challenging. But just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean that you give up and you don’t continue to work on it.”

Monday’s announcement brings the total payout from the city to the hockey team to $5.24 million, including $450,000 during the inaugural 2009-10 season, and $1.37 million and $1.76 million the next two years, respectively.

According to AHL attendance figures, the Heat drew an average of 3,778 fans per game last season, which ranked 28th out of 30 teams in the league. That represented a 6.6 per cent increase over the 3,545 they drew the previous year, a boost which can be attributed to the effects of the NHL lockout and an increase in group ticket sales over the second half of the season.

According to the city’s press release, the Heat’s “paid customer” base (which does not include comped tickets) was 3,221 fans per game last season, up from 2,653 in 2011-12.

The team is owned by the Calgary Flames, and operated locally by Fraser Valley Sports and Entertainment, which includes businessmen Lane Sweeting, Barry Marsden, Ron McNeil and Fred Strumpski.

“It’s going in the right direction, but it’s not satisfactory,” Sweeting said of the 2012-13 deficit. “($1.66 million) is not acceptable to us. We’re working hard to try and get it lower.”

In previous years, the final Heat deficit numbers had been made public sometime between September and November, with the latest release date being Nov. 19.

This year the process of reconciling the Heat and Global Spectrum’s figures ran into January, which city manager George Murray attributed to new staff reviewing the documents.

“It’s a complex contract that requires it to be reviewed,” said Murray, who has been on the job since February 2013.

“With the new staff at the city, we wanted to go through and make sure that (with) the numbers, that we had some sort of agreement.”

The supply fee contract does contain a five-year financial review clause, but changes have to be agreed on by all parties. Sweeting said there have been no discussions to that effect at this time.

The AESC also runs an overall deficit which is calculated separately from the hockey team’s, since the two organizations’ fiscal years end at different times. In 2012, the arena’s shortfall was $1.97 million. The numbers for 2013 will be released in the spring.

Banman said the city is doing what it can to help make the hockey team a success, working to improve fan experience in areas like traffic flow.

“There is one easy answer – that’s for people to come to a game,” he said.

“We have no choice but to work hard to make this better.”

More coverage: Heat attendance down this season

Just Posted

Spreading Christmas cheer around Aldergrove

Easing the pains and difficulties of hard times is ‘reason for the season’

120 turn up for Aldergrove blood clinic

More volunteer help welcomed by Canadian Blood Services

VIDEO: Hundreds compete in Langley Olympians intra club meet

An opportunity for older and younger swimmers to get a taste of competition, coach says

VIDEO: Basics for Babies underway at Langley Events Centre

Canadian country stars perform at fundraiser

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Boeser has 2 points as Canucks ground Flyers 5-1

WATCH: Vancouver has little trouble with slumping Philly side

Man dies after falling from B.C. bridge

Intoxicated man climbed railing, lost his balance and fell into the water below

Hundreds attend Hells Angels funeral in Maple Ridge

Body of Chad John Wilson found last month face-down under the Golden Ears Bridge.

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Gas prices to climb 11 cents overnight in Lower Mainland

Hike of 17 cents in less than 48 hours due to unexpected shutdown of Washington state pipeline

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

Most Read