I remember less than ten years ago a club in Collingwood with maybe 150 players, a struggle to keep the doors open to this six sheeter. I looked away and suddenly they have 500 members! And 66% are over 50! A club with an average age over 60 could hardly be sustainable… Not only are they sustaining the club, but they just invested half a million into their facility! So how does that work?
Club Secretary, Bob Riches explains:
The age demographic should not be surprising, since it is representative of Collingwood. The Town has been the receptor for previously seasonal residents who either skied in winter or hiked in summer. Their retirement led to moving to the place that brought back fond memories. Still, many seasonal persons are full members at the low, low price of $325 for full membership; or $200 to join for one league a week. This compares to over $800 for a country club curling facility in the GTA. So, how do they remain solvent and progressive? Volunteers! Players from the city, having retired look for replacement for their time previously spent in the office. And they have business skills to keep honed. Having planned their finances to survive retirement, there is less stress to make ends meet. Here are a few of their successes:
- School program – 5 elementary schools have every child attend the facility – all free – 18 volunteers from the club run the program. Guess what happens? All students have exposure- it comes back to the curling facility in spades when former students return with their families.
- Three icemakers maintain the ice – only one full time. All are kept up-to-date with recent courses.
- The day I spoke with Bob, there was a Probus club spiel going on– all volunteers coordinated the spiel. One of the tenets of my appeal to clubs is to partner. They invited the Probus Club. They will realize new members soon.
- They sent 100 members to get training in SmartServe so that there is always a bartender available. The result is $60k in bar revenues, at prices found nowhere else.
- Prime time is daytime. Most clubs are trying to fill daytime ice. Not in Collingwood. They could shutter at 9pm, but they don’t.
- Jitney curling – league every day – no obligation to attend. This flexibility for members allows players to take time off when they want, but keeps them active socially. They only have one competitive league!
- 6 end games are being proposed, because they understand their market. An hour and a half on the ice is long enough. This will lead to efficient operations and encourage new players.
Hats off to Collingwood. A curling success story.