Data and anecdotal evidence from city recreational co-ordinators suggests the bitterly cold weather may have affected turnout at facilities over the holiday season.
Describing attendance at the Frank J. Dunn Swimming Pool and Margo Fournier Centre, recreational co-ordinator Curtis Olsen said that the cold was a major factor in attendance numbers over the holidays.
“That’s kind of a tough one,” Olsen said. “I think (weather) does play a little bit of a factor at times … Especially if it’s outside the holiday season, I think people just tend to go out.
“But over the holidays, if you have family and it’s cold out, you're probably more likely, I would think, to maybe stay inside.”
Afternoon and evening public swims both took place during the holidays, with different turnouts on average in each case.
“Afternoons, we were getting around 20 ... 30 people, and then the evening was really hit and miss,” Olsen said. “There were a couple nights where we had 20 and then we had 60 (people).
He added, “On Jan. 3 -- that’s the last day I have the numbers up to … we had 36. So the numbers did jump around a bit.”
Compared to the pool, most activity at the Margo Fournier Centre tends to shut down during the holidays.
Fitness classes were offered on two days over this year’s break but saw relatively low attendance.
“All over the Christmas holidays at the Margo, we’re more quiet obviously,” Olsen said.
“In our facility there’s the youth activity centre and the seniors’, so they kind of close down. They’ll be open for a few hours here and there, but they’re kind of shut down over the holidays, so the building and all our fitness classes take a break.”
Meanwhile, the city’s ice rinks saw their largest burst of holiday activity during the annual free public skates organized by Tim Horton’s at the Kinsmen Arena, Art Hauser Centre and Steuart Arena.
Recreational co-ordinator Carrie McCoshen estimated that attendance hovered around the 50-100 mark, depending on the day.
“In comparison to the numbers last year … with the colder weather, I might guesstimate that numbers might have been down,” McCoshen said. “But I can’t be positive on that.”
Arena attendant Tammy Weleski said the rink at Kinsmen Arena saw relatively low levels of activity outside of the free public skate.
“We pretty much have days where nothing’s going on,” she said, noting that staff members will often use slow periods to take care of cleaning and other tasks.
Over the holidays, if you have family and it’s cold out, you're probably more likely, I would think, to maybe stay inside. Curtis Olsen
One recreational destination where cold weather indisputably played a role was the Kinsmen Ski Centre.
Facility manager Brian Gaetz said the extreme temperatures had an effect on lowering attendance.
“I have a contract with the city of P.A. that states in it that (below) -25 degrees Celsius or - 35 windchill … I’ve got to close,” Gaetz said. “So you figure it out,” he added with a chuckle.
The holiday season, Gaetz added, is by far the busiest time of the year for the Ski Centre along with the school break in February.
“We refer to Christmas as being … our harvest,” he said. “Every day’s a Saturday for two weeks.”
The impact of lower attendance can be felt among staff members at the Ski Centre as well those enrolled in skiing lessons.
“Weekends are good, are steady,” Gaetz said. “During the week we have a couple of programs, but we’re struggling with them right now because they’ve had one night on the hill.”
The frigid temperatures also put the kibosh on one planned activity related to the Prince Albert 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games.
“We were supposed to have a tryout for the winter games, and because of the temperature and the distance that the judges had to come … they had to come from Regina and the weather was pretty crappy down there, so they weren’t able to make it up here and so we cancelled it,” Gaetz said. “But we rescheduled it to (the) end of January.”
Despite the cold, Gaetz was optimistic that the weather would improve with time -- a sentiment shared by Olsen.
“Holidays and the weather definitely played a factor in attendance, I think,” Olsen said. “But as it stays colder, I think people just start to accept it and start getting out, and you see people getting back into the pool and different classes, or whatever it may be that’s happening.
“But no, I think (we’re) looking forward to some nice weather and hopefully things will change, especially for that week of the winter games.”