York Urbanist

Memory Box – Strathcona Cup 2018

June 22nd, 2018

IMG_00009315 IMG_00009317 The experience of a lifetime compiled in a memory box created by my wife.  The story can be found at: http://yorkurbanist.com/2018/03/16/strathcona-cup-2018/


March 16th, 2018

Final Score, after 53 draws: Canada 1593 stones; Scotland 1268 stones

What is this Strathcona Cup? In 2016, upwards of 300 men applied to participate in The Tour, by sending a curling curriculum vitae with a letter of reference from a previous ‘Tourist’.   On January 9, 2018, forty selected members of Team Canada met for the first time, then left to compete for one of the oldest trophies, originated in 1902, in any sport. Read of the history from Hugh McCarrell, who was instrumental in the success of organizing this 27 day odyssey.  On February 2, 2018, Canada lifted (and drank from) the coveted cup.DSC_5018 DSC_4996

Strathcona Cup 2018 was an elaborate exercise in social dynamics and international curling relations.

This is less a tale of intense athletic achievements, but more about the extension of friendly relationships between two rival countries, both of whom claim ownership of curling dominance. We had some marvelous competition against such legends and world champions as Hammy MacMillan, Alan Smith, Billy Howat and David Reid. In and around the fifth day, it finally sunk in that a Strathcona Cup game was less about the win-loss, and more about how forty Canadian men, none of whom were previously acquainted, could pull together with some 400+ Scots to enhance international and curling relationships that would last.

The odyssey began in Glasgow and ended in Edinburgh.  ‘Couriers’ guided us through daily rituals of morning classes, curling competitions, meals and dress codes.  Each of the Team Canada members had a responsibility: captain; music director; historian; photographer; equipment manager; and more.  Together, we recorded an adventure of a curler’s lifetime where, for 27 days, we were celebrated, wined and dined, given parties and presents, but most of all, created cross-the-pond curling friendships to last.

DSC_3991 DSC_4089

Bagpipes and arches of brooms received us at each venue. The response of the Scottish curling community overwhelmed the Tourists.  Tears on the final game day, at the final banquet, and then again when we left Edinburgh were typical, although not all the men would admit it.

It was the Scottish venues and curling programs, though, that relate to Club Corner.  Curling News Unlike in Canada, curling clubs are small groups of curlers who rent ice lane space at a facility. There may be 15 clubs in one facility.  And, those clubs may compete for ice time with the skating public.  Of the twelve rinks visited, three were curling dedicated. One, Stranraer, was attached to our hotel, similar to Montebello, Quebec. Yet another, Braehead, was built as an afterthought on InTu regional shopping plaza near Glasgow. It is only there because of the requirement to get approvals for the retail facility by the developer from the municipal government. The third dedicated rink, Greenacres, is run by owner, Richard Harding.  He has developed a program for juniors, runs many leagues, established a regional training centre for elite curlers, tests curling stones for Kay’s of Scotland and he is considering expansion.  He proved by his entrepreneurship that there is a market for curling in Scotland. This goes against the doom/gloom scenario expressed by many of the Scots who lament the aging demographics of Scotland. Does this sound familiar, my fellow Canadians?

The two countries have similar challenges about where the sport is headed. The spirit of Strathcona Cup helps to enlighten the positive values and the future of curling. And, Scotland and Canada need more Richard Harding’s.

Shut Down the Scarboro Curling Facility!

October 10th, 2017
Curling, Sports, Transportation issues

The shuttering of Scarboro Golf and Country Club is about ego.  Scarboro Curling logo

The announcement echoes from Thornhill, St. Georges, Board of Trade (Woodbridge), Humber Highlands, and Weston. All relented to the arrogance of a community, who themselves are under siege.  Thornhill and St. Georges brought in the accountants, who factored in the benefits of curling keeping the club open in the winter.  They remain…for now.  Board of Trade also brought in the accountants, who, by virtue of discussions only with golfers, determined that the curling facility was a drag on the club.  Interestingly, the club found need to sell within a few short years.  Humber Highlands, well, I am too young to understand what happened there, but I suppose it might have to do with non-curling accountants and golfers.  And the rumours abound about Weston.

But Scarboro is different, I suppose.  The accountants are unlikely to have dictated the demise of curling at SG&C.  Metrolinx is the fall guy!  That fat transportation group needs the land for their new transportation facilities. The interesting part though, is that the new facility did not have to go where the curling facility is today! SG&C chose to allow the curling function to leave the premises.  Yes, they got their compensation, but curiously, could a part of the compensation have gone to a rebuild?

Return to the other golf and curling clubs.  They are unable or reticent to treat the curling functions of their clubs as a business entity. Golfers pay a princely sum to afford the maintenance of 150 acres of land plus programming in their extravagant edifices. When curlers are introduced into the mix, more persons can afford this less expensive facility investment.   This is where the conflict arises.  The golf club members (who do not curl) endear their exclusivity, created by the privilege of their fees. In the 1960′s, when curling became an exceptional add-on to a Country Club, the golfers never contemplated curling plebes.  The exclusivity for the golf member is diminished by participants in the curling facility paying much lower rates.  Now, as curling facilities age, the ego of the golf members holds court.

But golf is a battered sport. Their facilities are depleting. In a way, they may have reacted by protecting their own turf. But for a former curler, Mackenzie Hughes, and a young Canadian phenom, Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, there might be few hooks onto which the golf community to put its hat.

The curling fraternity should not lament the loss of six sheets of ice.  The curling community should look inwardly to determine if they have a business case  And, there is a case to be made for year-round facilities and in the economic benefits that curling derives.  See http://yorkurbanist.com/2017/02/10/collingwood-cc-a-curling-success/ and http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/01/29/2015-ontario-scotties-as-economic-generator/  New facilities could be part of new residential, commercial or recreation developments, if only the entrepreneurs could also be curlers.

Curling – English Language Lexicon

February 28th, 2017

The sport is healthy when it enters the English language lexicon as a descriptor.


Substituting “curling” for “helicopter” to describe the way parents sweep up their children’s errors may seem like derogatory terminology. But the mere fact that Canadians would understand and relate to the use of the sport’s name indicates that the sport itself is becoming more broadly recognizable.

There are upwards of 800,000 Canadians who participate in the sport. But there is increasing viewership of televised and streamed events. Last year, over 5 million watched any or all of the Brier Championships. “.. every once in a while, something happens that illustrates just how big curling is in Canada. One of those came Saturday night, when the Tim Hortons Brier semifinal drew (curling reference intended) an average of 896,000 viewers to TSN. That wasn’t a record, but what made it stand out was the fact that more people watched curling that night than watched the Toronto Maple Leafs on Hockey Night In Canada — a lot more.”


Collingwood CC – A Curling Success

February 10th, 2017
Curling, Recreation

Photo Curling Canada/Brian Chick

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.
curling___Collingwood grand reopening

John Edwards photo, simcoe.com

Hats off to Collingwood.  A curling success story.

Vision for Kleinburg

March 15th, 2016
Urban Design








  • To ensure that the planning and design framework for development is sensitive to the surrounding natural environment, is appropriately integrated with or buffered from adjacent land uses and is made available to the community at large
  • To maintain streetscape as a green people place
  • To retain mature vegetation and address the potential to enhance natural features including forests, watercourses and wildlife.


  • To ensure that the heritage value represented by the community of Kleinburg and the surrounding rural areas are given special consideration and that new development in the vicinity of these settlements is sensitive to the inherent value of this historic community.
  • To consider indigenous heritage; historic settlement influences; art and commercial heritage as influences in future developments.
  • To recognize leadership from the Kleinburg past.
  • To enhance the Arts component of the Village, influenced by McMichael Canadian Collection.
  • To build relationships and encourage activities between McMichael, Education institutions, community groups and KARA.

Development Planning/Urban Design

  • To provide appropriate standards for built form, site design, landscaping and streetscape treatment in general.
  • To encourage high design standards for infill in commercial core areas by addressing built form, massing, signage, and off-street parking.
  • To direct an urban design approach which promotes community identity by building on features unique to Kleinburg and detailing approaches to the most visible community elements including gateways, streetscape and built form.
  • Encourage individual land developers, who are coincident in planning timing, to coordinate plans as they pertain to urban impacts and contribution to community benefits.


  • To make the streets and public properties in the village linked enabling them to become connected people places.
  • To enhance access to and such as the two branches of the Humber River corridors, woodlots, the Boyd Conservation Area and other significant natural areas.
  • To monitor the need for public transportation.
  • To address parking needs, until public transportation is enhanced.
  • To enhance access by cyclists and pedestrians


  • To make the public spaces inherently educational to the public.
  • To maintain and encourage educational facilities in the Village, private or public.


  • To enhance tourism as the major contributor to commerce in the Village.
  • To encourage new development in the Village core to include a commercial component that builds on the commercial uniqueness of the Village.
  • To work with the City and Region to develop the theme of the Village as a centre of Tourism and Commerce.


  • To provide opportunities for casual and formal recreation while maintaining functionality and incorporating the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).
  • To endorse active recreation as a complement to the residential community.
  • To accommodate festivals and regular events that enliven the streets of the Village


  • To ensure that underground services of water and sewerage sustain the community.
  • To ensure that infrastructure is maintained at the highest level.
  • To reduce per capita water usage, considered in 2016 to be the highest of any community in York Region.


  • To have KARA be seen as leaders in active community consultation.
  • To take time to work with developers within the Village Core and with City planners/Council to create a sustainable community that is a mix of commercial and residential land uses.
  • To review applications from developers with an open mind, while keeping the community’s needs foremost.


  • New development that leaves space for community activity consistent with the existing activities in the street;
  • A street-oriented and complete commercial first floor of all new developments that encourage patrons to enter and become absorbed in a unique commercial experience;
  • New architecture that complements without replicating historic buildings, that identifies its era of construction with a uniqueness, adding new elements to a vibrant streetscape;
  • Enhanced and mature streetscape plantings that provide shade in the public realm and define edges defining the pedestrian and village realms;
  • Open air locations where street events can host vendors, music and vendors;
  • A pedestrian-oriented public streetscape where vehicles give way to pedestrians crossing the street; and,
  • Spaces between buildings that encourage access between commercial buildings and for connections to and from residences to open space and commercial entities.

IMG_00000041 These goals should influence and enhance:


For potential guidelines see: http://yorkurbanist.com/what-is-urban-design/kleinburg-public-spaces/

Curling Fallback

February 23rd, 2016

Corn broomAll this ‘broomgate’ has taken us back to our roots with Smithsonian now as the experts on the roaring sport. Our Bikini Curler, by Atlas Brush Ltd. came with an instruction manual authored by Ken Watson. Its round shape (patent pending), …”is the choice of Top Curlers throughout Canada”. “A nylon cord six inches from the bottom (concealed by the skirt) supplies the built-in ‘Spring-Steel whip’ – and a pleasing ice slap.”

Does that now become unauthorized under current rules, since it is an insert?  If so, I have a guarantee from Atlas Brush Ltd., Winnipeg and I’m going to return it for a refund.

And more information regarding a lawsuit from https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/4714/index.do

In 1955, one F.M. developed a new type of curling broom. In March 1958, a patent was issued to the inventor and was assigned to the plaintiff in January 1959. The latter, in March 1962, petitioned for a reissue of its patent, stating that it was deemed defective because of insufficient description or specification and because, in certain respects, the inventor had claimed more and, in others, less than he had the right to claim as new. On January 1963, a reissue patent was issued to the plaintiff pursuant to s. 50 of the Patent Act, R.S.C. 1952, c. 203.

The plaintiff sued the defendant in respect of alleged infringement of these patents and sought a declaration that, as between the parties, the original patent was valid up to the date of the reissuance and that the latter was a valid patent. The defendant counterclaimed for a declaration that both patents were invalid. The action was dismissed by the trial judge and the declaration of invalidity was granted. The trial judge held that the broom in question was the embodiment of an invention of which F.M. was the inventor, but that the inventiveness was neither disclosed nor claimed in the original surrendered patent.



February 1st, 2016

If you are a manager or ice maker, you resumed your tasks at full tilt after a 2-week holiday break

  • emails/phone,                                  check;
  • accounting and bill payments,    √;
  • mechanical,                                        √;
  • electrical, check; programs,         √;
  • rentals, check; bathrooms,          √;
  • snow clearing,                                   √;
  • site drainage,                                     √; and,
  • supplies,                                              √.

If you are a four-sheet or smaller club, the management of the facility and programs lies with a volunteer board. If that is the case, add to that checklist all the contracts with food, drink, ice-making, and building maintenance.

Half into the season, what could possibly go astray from the first half of the season?

Things change during the curling season, but your challenge is to create a sense of seamlessness in revenues, expenses and membership retention. There is always the opportunity to trade a problem for an opportunity. Following are the problems from which you can embrace opportunities.

Membership revenues are depleting while costs increase

Problem: Most clubs accumulate their membership fees by September. The challenge is to appropriate the funds over the active curling season, so that end of year scrimping and saving is not necessary. Management challenges and revenue losses ensue.

Opportunity: Best clubs incentivize members to pay in the spring before the season. This approach assures the board of the number of members in the coming year. If numbers are lower than the previous year, then a board can apply marketing tactics prior to the start of leagues in September. Naysayer boards will aver that they could not possibly ask for fees in Spring or they would lose members. My argument is that by waiting for fees, budgeting for the following year is compromised. Some clubs offer their members payment plans. Ensure that you monetize those plans by charging a premium (more than the cost of savings accounts). And get the member to sign a contract for the future payments. You cannot run a business on verbal promises to pay. You have increasing Hydro costs to pay.

Snowbirds and other leavers

Problem: Attrition during the season has various implications. Organizing season-long leagues is challenging. Also, if snowbirds have to pay a full season of fees, will they be less inclined to return?

Opportunity: Change leagues to acknowledge the dynamic of members’ vacation trends. For this you must know your membership demographics. Winter attrition is more likely in the 60+ age group. Most clubs’ schedules accommodate a break for two to three weeks around the end of December. Some, as in Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton, shut down leagues for the annual regional Championship.

How do you recover lost usage? If your mechanical equipment is powerful enough, expand your season so that snowbirds get September to play, or April when they return. Special events can intervene for seniors in the times that the snowbirds are away. CHANGE YOUR LEAGUE FORMATS! Create different leagues: 2 leagues, one before/after the Holiday break; eliminate post-holiday leagues; establish week-long leagues; alternate weeks of open league, then mixed doubles league; _________ (you add)

IMG_6861Mechanical breakdown

Problem: Speaking of mechanical equipment, with the cold ensuing in January, more problems can arise: revenue losses and member attrition.

Opportunity: You may not see mechanical failure as opportunistic, but it red-flags the need for capital savings by the club. Reiterating a previous Club Corner article, in 30 years, a typical six-sheet facility will need $3.5 replacement value. Assuming 600 members, the annual capital fund fee should be: $195 in 2014 dollars. Your club needs an emergency plan.

Teams affected by health problems

Problem: Injuries occur in curling. Brad Gushue’s face plant in December 2015 shows no one is immune. Seniors are more prone to illness than youth. So many of my peers are having joints replaced, or like Wayne Middaugh, titanium implants. If one team member is out, how do you supplant? One way is to default the team. This becomes a revenue issue and league management complication.

Opportunity: Create a new members or Rookie League. This will be the resource for filling in gaps created by mid-season attrition. It is also part of your succession planning. Yes, establish a SUCCESSION PLAN. How often have you invited new members to join the team with the ogre skip, only to have that new member leave mid-season.

Competitive vs Recreation Players involved in playdowns

Problem: This is a Canada-wide phenomenon. Would-be competitive players prepare for and participate in provincial play down events. They occasionally leave a void in their league teams. The recreation players in the league are less sympathetic as their team falls from A to B levels. They become frustrated (or perhaps jealous) and leave in frustration. Revenues lost!

Opportunity: Engage your competitive players early in the season to provide advanced instruction. This can be done as a first week curling camp and/or weekly instruction led by a certified instructor that you hire. The win-win is that the currently competitive players feel pride of ability for having been asked. The recreation players get the instruction for which they have been pining.

Weather prevents play on any given day

Problem: It snows in Canada. Most Canadian curlers drive to the club. Leagues inevitably become interrupted by snow days, yet leagues are tightly programmed. Make up games become a stressor for players. Bar revenues are impacted, but more importantly, members become disgruntled.

Opportunity: Build in flexibility to league play. If a draw is five weeks, allow six weeks. If, during the draw time, there is no interruption, then install a fun night. Have each team invite a player from the Rookie League that you created above. The rookies will be honoured and the league players will be flattered to see someone in the club is struggling more than they are. The fun night events will be pre-planned, ready to be implemented at a moment’s notice.


This leaves you with tasks for next year:

  • Start your Business Plan for 2016-17 NOW
  • Establish an Emergency Plan
  • Be Creative with your Leagues
  • Encourage your Rookies and New Members



Curling Business – Expense Side

November 14th, 2015
Curling, Uncategorized

A new curling world awaits those that spend with profit in mind.

“But why would we paint the lounge? That costs money we can use for other things. We’ll get the volunteer maintenance committee to wash the walls.” ….heard at a curling club board of directors meeting.

The unspoken issue in this scenario is that the curling club has not been socking away that capital fund that should have enough to cover that catastrophic eventuality – ice plant replacement. Within 20 years, your club will have to spend at least $150,000 to replace part of that plant and $350,000 within 30 years for wholesale replacement. And yet, clubs continue to apply duct tape to extend the lifeblood of a curling facility to up to 50 years. That scenario of a paint job would cost less than $500, retain members, attract new clients, yet clubs struggle to make the decision to spend.

A volunteer executive does not think like a business board. They do not relate expenditure as an investment. For every expense there must be a compensatory return. So think about the following question:

What will our next expenditure gain for our facility or club? Your decision should be based on both member retention and new client acquisition. Here are a few examples:

  1. Purchase new ice making equipment – This will become your number one priority in the future. Consider it annually. Without the plant, the curling club is simply a rentable void. This one expense is the reason to charge $50 annually (in addition to membership dues) to each player. Do not wait until September to find out you need a chiller. Member Retention.1003923_10151831490014709_339560760_n
  2. Design and build an industrial kitchen or plan for a caterer in a servery – This is a business planning exercise that should be reviewed every five years. Ask yourselves, are we in the business of food provision from which we can profit, or are our members/clients better served by a caterer? The caterer knows the food business and the club can charge rent to the caterer. The more meals served, the greater the rent that can be charged. Member Retention/New Clients.
  3. Services from business planner – This is an intangible expense that few clubs will consider. But it could derive the most benefit of any other cost item. The business plan could be prepared by a member, who would benefit from exposure to the club if he/she did it pro bono. But, it would be better accomplished by an independent planner who has no emotional attachment to the facility or members – objectivity. Member Retention/New Clients
  4. IMG_6578Update your interior at least each decade – Many facilities are caught in an era. Shopping malls require that their tenants overhaul their interiors every 7 years… for a reason. They want the changing clientele to shop. No one wants to go to a tired or dated store. Similarly, new curling clients want up-to-date facilities. By now, every curling facility lounge should have Wi-Fi. Brown panelling (1970’s vintage) should have been replaced or integrated into an attractive theme about the ‘70’s. Budget $30,000 each decade. If you have 300 members, then $10 of their fee should be earmarked for general updating improvements. Member Retention/New Clients
  5. TCSCC-130[1]Create an athletic club – Invest in a fitness facility or fitness equipment and use it to charge a premium or it could be an independent cross-marketing business. Curling is a sport. Appealing to the weekend warrior is now vogue. Fit members live and curl longer. Member Retention/New Clients.
  6. Marketing – The previous five examples are primarily meant to retain client members. Marketing expenses should be directed toward replacing the expected 10% attrition that clubs experience. Define your market by starting with the demographics of your municipality. Your club should reflect that demography. Your business planner should be able to define how to market, when to spend on marketing and where you get the biggest bang. New Clients

The expense side of the ledger should be considered an opportunity for curling in your community. If your stomach turns by the addition of $50 on annual fees, then relate the cost to going out to dinner once a year with a bottle of wine. For every expense there should be a positive impact. Whether it is to retain existing members or derive new clients – spend wisely. Enjoy the rest of the curling season, open your wallets and make the sport of curling part of your municipality’s culture.


Anonymous Donor connects OCA with Clubs

November 2nd, 2015

As Mike McEwen and Rachel Homan were winning another Grand Slam event, a grassroots event was laying the foundation for the future of curling in Ontario.Embedded image permalink

Thanks to an anonymous donation from two years ago, the Ontario Curling Association hosted a Symposium in Waterloo on Halloween weekend 2015. Free of cost, clubs could send two representatives to the event. Almost 200 attendees listened and participated in sessions about their business of curling. But this was more about interacting with other clubs than listening to speakers.

A number of topics rose to the surface:

  1. Curling is a business
  2. Rural versus urban club issues
  3. Competition or Recreation
  4. Legal liabilities are part of sport
  5. Curling clubs have tangible support of a governing body

Representatives of clubs were variably managers, board members or volunteers. Danny Lamoureux’s Round Table made the participants think in business terms about their clubs. It was a stimulating exchange of ideas about how to market what they have to sell. Meanwhile, in another room, Leslie Kerr was laying out the principles of good business planning.

Emerging from discussions was the notion that not all clubs were created equal. Rural clubs are struggling to remain a business. Yet the conference was heralding the growth of the sport of curling in Ontario. While urban curling facilities are reaching capacity of membership on their own, rural curling volunteers came to realize that collaboration with neighbouring facilities may be an answer to building awareness and competing with the hockey syndromes of their regions.

For whom do we build our programs? Stimulating discussion about who was going to win this weekend’s televised Grand Slam competition was compared to creating an experience for the recreational curling public. Without the base of recreational programs, competitive curling would not exist. After all there are 800,000 curlers. And how many competitive teams?

Lawyer Steve Indig scared people in a friendly manner about the liabilities of being a board member and the risks of curling facilities. And icemaker Don Powell flagged what to do when a player hits the ice hard – call 911! The exclamation point was made as we watched Brad Gushue face plant at the Grand Slam. Even the experts can get injured.

Five OCA board of directors attended as did most of the OCA staff. It was the ideal chance to ask ‘what is OCA doing for you’. Over the past year, clubs and individuals have been given the opportunity to look inside the workings of their governing organization. This Symposium was emblematic of the resounding change. If a club needs help, tools are available. The ontcurl.com website was explained. It is updated regularly and points to the resources available. If you missed this Symposium, do not miss the next curling conference opportunity!

The smiles on the faces of the representatives as they left the halls of the Symposium spoke volumes. That’s why we pay $12 in fees! There really is an Ontario Curling Association. And the future is optimistic for curling in Ontario.