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Curling club calls on city to help curb costs of costly chemical leak correction

It wasn't that long ago when crowds packed the curling club to witness Jim Cotter of Vernon capture the BC Men's Curling Championships. Now, the Nelson Curling Club is faced with a "crisis" according to club president Gordon Weiss. — The Nelson Daily photo

With a growing deficit and a costly ammonia leak that closed the facility last winter facing them the curling club has informed city it needs a cash infusion in order to stay in existence.

The Nelson Curling Club (NCC) has made a request for funding from the city and several regional district partners, imploring the municipal government partners to work together with the club to find “a long-term solution to keep curling viable in the community.”

NCC club president Gordon Weiss said the current situation threatens the future of the sport in Nelson.

“We need some money because we have a crisis,” he told council last week. “Now we are in a position where we need to come up with some money quickly ... Economically, socially, if you look at it you will realize you do not want to lose curling in this city.”

Orders from WorkSafe BC and Technical Safety BC this year resulted in extensive costs and detailed technical documentation (the NCC paid out over $13,000 this year on ice plant repairs and requirements) and an ammonia leak eventually shut down the curling rink prematurely. The cost of the replacement or repair of the ice plant is approximately $130,000.

The NCC has been actively trying to find funds to pay for the needed capital expenditures, Weiss explained, but to bridge the gap the club has asked for financial help from the city to the tune of $30,000.

“We’ve done everything we can, investigated every opportunity we can, and the ones that aren’t available are because we can’t show a collaboration (with the city),” he said.

The club has spread the “ask” around through a proposed collaborative funding partnership that included regional district’s Area F ($20,000), Area E ($20,000), Area H ($5,000), Area G ($5,000) and the curling club at $30,000.

“It’s been hinted at quite strongly that they will match funds” if the city is on board, said Weiss.

If funding is secured the club can apply to the Columbia Basin Trust for a grant to fund the remaining cost of replacing or repairing the plant.

It was hard to listen to the club make a plea for funds because it sounded like it was on its “last legs,” said Mayor John Dooley. He said other sports in the city share a similar plight of dwindling funds to maintain and repair aging athletic infrastructure.

“We are at a stage in our community where we are not looking at the value that these facilities bring to our community, we are looking at them as negative impact,” he said.

“I really think the recreation commission needs to look at the value of these facilities to our community ... going forward.”

He spoke in favour of supporting the club’s financial request, with the understanding it would be matched by the regional district players. The matter was forwarded to a future city council business meeting for a debate and decision.

The NCC was founded in 1898 and has operated continuously since that time, with approximately 164 current members, including 60 per cent of its members from Nelson.

A new lease on life

In 1995 the NCC donated its facility to the city and entered into a 20-year lease agreement which provided that the NCC would lease and operate the building. 

Two years ago after the lease expired the NCC notified the city that it could no longer manage the building and carry on with the old lease agreement. 

Last year the club requested the regional district take over operations of the ice plant, but has yet to receive an answer on the request.

For the last five years the club has run a deficit, which has risen to over $30,000 last year and this year.

In a letter to council the NCC stated it was “clear that the current lease arrangement cannot be maintained by the NCC. The NCC wants to pay its way and does not ask to be subsidized, however it needs a new agreement that is sustainable for the club” in the future.

“The NCC proposes the current lease be renegotiated to reflect the NCC’s use of the building,” noted Weiss.

  • the NCC agrees to rent the curling rink and building each year for $3,000 per month from Oct. 1 to March 31;
  • during the rental period the NCC would be responsible for running and maintaining the interior of the building including ice maintenance but not including the plant or infrastructure;
  • the NCC would pay the natural gas costs for the six-month period Oct. 1 to March 31;
  • the NCC would be responsible for any capital curling expenditures such as rock rebanding, purchasing and maintaining a defibrillator or other equipment directly related to curling;
  • the City of Nelson and the RDCK would be responsible for operating and maintaining the new ice plant; and
  • the city and the RDCK would be responsible for capital building and infrastructure expenditures. This would include annual hydro, water and sewer and building insurance costs.

— Source: Nelson Curling Club presentation

Cement it in

The club has proposed the city and the regional district work together with the club to put in a concrete floor ($550,000) over a three-year period to make the building a year round multi-use facility. 

“At present the curling building is underutilized,” said Weiss. “The building has two levels at the south end which account for approximately 5,000 square feet of floor space, and the ground floor has a full kitchen and approximately 1,000 sq. ft. of floor space and a (barrier free) washroom.” 

He explained that during the curling season — October to March — the upstairs was not used week days in the day time and is used only on four weekends for bonspiels. 

“This space could be used for recreation programs or day care or meetings or many other activities where an indoor facility space is needed,” said Weiss.

If the project were to be pulled off the NCC has indicated that it would like to renegotiate its lease agreement with the city to only lease the facility for the curling portion of the year and to have the city lease the facility to other recreational programs during the rest of the year.

— Source: Nelson Curling Club