The arena in Fort-Coulonge officially reopened on Monday, January 31, 2022, for 18 year-olds and younger under Québec’s new public health guidelines. The Coopérative du Centre des loisirs des Draveurs will also be able to welcome back in adults as soon as February 14th. However, the reality for the arena in Fort-Coulonge could have been very different for the Coopérative had they not had a partnership with the Pontiac Community Radio Station (CHIP 101.9) and the Centre des loisirs des Draveurs Century 21 Élite.
At the beginning of the season, the committee behind the Coopérative du Centre des loisirs des Draveurs needed $6,000 to be able to get the arena up and running this season. As a result, CHIP 101.9’s board of directors decided to step in to allow the community to enjoy the arena during the 2021-22 winter season.
Coopérative President Stéphane Béland says the partnership allowed the arena to open in the fall and assured that the arena would be able to reopen in the years to come, despite it having been greatly impacted by the pandemic.
’’No, it has been tough with the closure. It was already hard to get by even without the pandemic,’’ Béland said (translated). ’’The Pandemic did us no favors, but the contract we were able to work out with CHIP has really gone a long way.’’
Through this innovative partnership, CHIP 101.9, which just celebrated its 40-year anniversary, had the goal of contributing to its community and to the development of its youth. CHIP 101.9 is always looking for new ways of supporting the Pontiac community due in part to its status as a local non-profit organization.
’’I think it’s been more of a joint partnership. At the same time, it is true that CHIP 101.9 […], or we were actually CHIP 101.7 in 2016-2017 when we had approached the Center de loisirs des Draveurs. We wanted to see what we could to help, because helping the community is one of the things that is really important to us, but ultimately it is our board of directors that guided us in this,’’ says François Carrier, director of the Pontiac Community Radio (translated). ’’You know, I am often the voice that you hear, but the decision making is really done by our board members. I am thinking, among others, of our president, Diane Grenier. We wanted to do something for the community that could help everyone. And the arena, we had already done a survey and found that it is very important to people.’’
With the partnership coming to a close in August, CHIP 101.9 is now hoping to continue helping the Coopérative du Centre des loisirs des Draveurs towards gradually returning to an autonomous state and to allow the arena create activities that will help grow their revenues.
«I still remember the discussions we had at our board meetings, I am thinking, among others, of when Patrice Brown who said ’what is important is that the arena can open and after that it can also do economic and community development so that it can stand on its own or at least more easily.’ We will always be attached and it is a partnership that we see lasting much longer than just this year,’’ Carrier said (translated). ’’This year, we are giving them $6,000 to be able to open, but, we will always be very close, [...] and what we really want, is just like what we did here at the radio, if we look back ten years ago, things weren’t going so well in terms of our finances. We would like to see the same thing happen with the arena.’’
In the short term, while we wait for a return to normal for sporting and recreational activities, la Coopérative du Centre des loisirs des Draveurs will use the ’’announcers box,’’ that will now adopted CHIP 101.9’s name and colors. The arena will hold a golf tournament and a hockey tournament once the conditions (pandemic rules) allow, with the profits going to the Coopérative du Centre des loisirs des Draveurs for the arena. CHIP 101.9 hockey pucks will soon be available at the arena for purchase.
’’In the contract we’ve signed with CHIP, we have a tournament that we still don’t know if we will be able to organize given the situation. At it stands we can’t do it. We’re hoping to have one. There’s also a volunteer night in the contract and a golf tournament that we’re hoping to have this summer,’’ says Stéphane Béland.
’’Yes, our understanding is that all of the profits from each event will go back into the arena. That’s really what’s important,’’ François Carrier responds. ’’For us, we’re really happy with the visibility, and I think, precisely given that there may not be a hockey tournament, they had a great idea. He will tell you about it. But speaking of a golf tournament, I think it allows us to have business people involved in this project, in this infrastructure, that is really important to us. The other thing too is that when we were talking about this volunteer evening, recognizing our volunteers, I think that’s very important too.’’
This 3-year contract should result in a more than $15,000 investment into the Centre de loisirs des Draveurs Century 21 Élite.
The coopérative faces other costly challenges that the new funds will help with the management of the arena as well as its maintenance among other things. The support of local organizations such as CHIP, volunteers and the population allows the Coopérative du Centre des Draveurs to improve its infrastructures while bearing the growing costs of the sports plex.
’’The money has already been spent. What we did is boot up the arena […] and opening the arena came out to 6,000 dollars. We had to bring in mechanics to start the motors. They needed to prepare the ice afterwards and do the lines,’’ Béland says. ’’That’s the cost, 6,000 dollars to get it done. With the little money we had left in our own pockets, we were to start running the arena, hiring employees. This year, we rented a Zamboni which was, I think, one of the best deals we did this year. It’s really one of those things, it makes the ice super nice, that gave us a good helping hand. […] Even with the pandemic, we have been able to manage things and we are able to open today. The arena opens […] tonight and we are still ahead.’’
The full interview with the president of the Coopérative du Centre des loisirs des Draveurs, Stéphane Béland and with the Director of CHIP 101,9, François Carrier, is available here. There is another partnership for the arena’s future, its was made public during an interview with Local Century 21 Élite Real Estate Agent, Sébastien Bonnerot.