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COVID-19: Salmon Arm Curling Centre requests city help to stay financially healthy

Council to consider request for $60,000 over three years during budget deliberations
Curlers aim to button up a win at the Salmon Arm Curling Centre in March 2018. (File photo)

Although the Salmon Arm Curling Centre was making ends meet during the 2019/2020 season, COVID-19 has added its own spin to finances.

Donna Shultz, Bob Genoway and Doug Murray came to the city’s public budget meeting on Nov. 9 to provide an update on the centre as well as make a request for financial assistance.

Council heard that due to the coronavirus pandemic, curling membership in the 2020/2021 season is down 30 per cent. To add to the declining revenue, there was no rental income from the facility during the off-season, combined with decreased rental income now. At the same time, cleaning costs have increased.

Shultz pointed out the club has come a long way during its more than 100 years.

The history goes back to 1912 when the city fixed up the south wing of a stock shed located on the fall fair property and curling began ‘inside’ in Salmon Arm. It wasn’t until 1931 that a designated two-sheet facility was built.

The club incorporated as a society in February 1947. In 1954 a new four-sheet curling rink was constructed with volunteer labour. It was located downtown where the Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union now stands, but burned down in 1976. Construction of the current Salmon Arm Curling Centre began in 1977. Curling in the new building, which boasts six sheets, began in 1979.

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The club built and owns the building, but leases the land from the city. The club paid rent until 2002 when the lease was reduced to $1 in keeping with other city recreation facilities.

The upstairs of the building can seat 150 during non-COVID times and can be rented for dances and other events. During normal years, the club holds about eight bonspiels or funspiels, attracting out-of-town teams. Cameras at both ends of the ice enhance the experience for spectators.

Shultz stressed that the club accommodates people with fewer financial resources and no one is turned away.

Last year the club had 408 curlers, ages nine to 90-plus. This season the number of active curlers is down to 285. No major bonspiels or school programs can be held.

Genoway, general manager, said the board of directors formed a COVID-19 committee early on to create a plan for operating safely, so the curling centre was one of the few able to open Oct. 1.

Although costs have been cut by using volunteers in several capacities, grants have been received and fees have been raised, the projected revenue shortfall could be as high as $50,000.

“We’re in a tough state right now, we need help. Once we get through that, we’ll be sustainable again,” Genoway said.

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Murray explained the curling club is requesting $20,000 for the next three years to keep operating.

He noted if the curling centre didn’t open, it would still cost the club $30,000 to keep doors closed.

He said the club recently upgraded its ice-making plant at a cost of $200,000 so it wouldn’t become a hazard such as happened in Fernie.

For the future, he pointed out the roof is nearing the end of its life. The club will investigate solar power in hopes of decreasing its large hydro bill, much like the city’s arts centre is doing.

Council decided to forward the funding request to budget deliberations, which take place Jan. 18, 2021.

Coun. Kevin Flynn pointed out that because of COVID-19 and other reasons, neither the 2021 nor the 2022 city budget will be easy.
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Martha Wickett

About the Author: Martha Wickett

came to Salmon Arm in May of 2004 to work at the Observer. I was looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of the Lower Mainland, where I had spent more than a decade working in community newspapers.
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