York Urbanist

Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

(NOT JUST) THE TORONTO SCENE

March 18th, 2019
Curling

Toronto’s success as Canada’s economic centre in part is why other Canadians will key into any sense of failure.  Hence, the closings of two Toronto clubs, in the same year, was seen as a bellwether of curling’s demise.  Scarboro and Weston both started as golf clubs.  Curling was added as a winter complement for golfers.  But then curling became its own entity.  There became a ‘we versus them’ mentality within the clubs, but there was more.  Let us look at the circumstances surrounding those closings and some of the emotional response.

Scarboro Golf and Country Club:  February 13, 2018 –“Scarboro G&CC just had a special meeting this evening to decide the future of curling at the club. Unfortunately the vote Scarboro Curlingdid not go in our favour and it looks like curling will wind up at the club at the end of the season. Many tears shed. A very sad day for our curling “family” at Scarboro.” said Bill Baker.  Hugh McCarrell added: “The golfers don’t understand what impact it will have on them financially, socially and many other ways. They will likely regret this down the road.”

Weston Golf and Country Club:   August, 2018 – Doug Flowers analysed the problems in Weston, but they reflect those of Scarboro:

  • “Curling membership has declined by about 50% from a peak of 600 members;
  • Golf membership at Weston has remained strong …;
  • Curling revenues from fees (do not exceed accounted expenses);
  • Utility costs are increasing, with the following immediate and long term consequences vis a vis curling:

i)                    Later start and shorter season related to costs of installing ice;

ii)                   Higher operating costs and fees;

iii)                 Capital expenditures to make the sixty year old facility energy efficient.

  • Curling in country clubs is suffering generally, while curling in public clubs is thriving. Public clubs have grown in proportion to the growing profile of the game (Olympics), while curling in country clubs has stagnated;
  • The median age of Weston curlers is post sixty..;
  • The (difference) between  …country club curling … and public club curling operation is marketing … Country clubs “hide their light under a basket”…;
  • There is also competition for people’s time. Traditional activities (compete with) 500 channel TV, Netflix, You Tube, and extensive travel.

…A curling entity can better control its destiny …when operating independent of a country club structure. The underlying rationale is that the curling membership … can more readily identify trends, threats and opportunities, and has the skill set and motivation to respond appropriately if their “hands are on the wheel”. “

St. Georges Golf & Country Club: This country club is not gone…..yet, which is why current members have organized to find a way to continue.  The threat was there at least six years ago.  It seems to never go away.

The Facts:

Existing Toronto clubs are oversubscribed – Curling activity is growing.  But facilities are not keeping pace.  Accordingly, the remaining facilities in Toronto are experiencing unprecedented member enlistments. Dixie Curling Club on the edge of Etobicoke was overwhelmed by the influx of curlers in August 2018, as players exited Weston Golf and Country Club. High Park and Royal Canadian Curling Club the two clubs south of Bloor Street have realized an influx of younger players – younger in comparison to the Golf related curling memberships. Their memberships are 124% and 111% of the normally accepted 100 persons per sheet.  Leaside (125%), Tam Heather (105%) and East York (102.5%) are also over the magic 100. What that translates to is that none of the subscribed members can acquire practice time at reasonable hours.

Private run facilities are stronger than public ownership models – Both Royals and High Park are privately owned and operated, while Leaside, Tam Heather and East York are owned by the City of Toronto.  Note that Leaside has the highest membership per sheet.  Since 2014, the curling operations and programming were taken over by Leaside Curling Club.  Since the changes, membership has grown.  The success is due to the fact that there was close appreciation for the way operations and programming interweave.  With eight sheets, Leaside is now has the largest membership of any curling club in Eastern Canada.  Wait lists are happening.

Corporate groups are hard pressed to find facilities. The Toronto Sport and Social Club looks for places for its 20,000 members. They have expressed that they cannot find enough ice time for its members who want to curl.   https://toronto.sportsocial.club/events/ This alone evidences demand. So, why are curling facilities not going up in Toronto?

For one, fees are too low for the amount of ice time available.  Heresy, you say?  Public facilities are skewing the actual cost of participating by subsidizing players with fees that cannot match the costs of capital replacements over time.  Leaside proved that they can attract members with rates that are over the former public fees.  They attract curlers because they provide the services that members want. They also ensure that marketing continues, even after they have reached virtual saturation of usage.

What to Do:

Partner: The City of Toronto needs to know that curling has demand, and at a rate of 1 active curler per 1,000 in urban areas. In their Parks and Recreation Master Plan, there is but one-half a page dedicated to the sport in a 300 page tome. It says that curling is the realm of private providers while acknowledging that the City owns three facilities. Their recreation consultant continues to reflect on outdated statistics about curling.   So, the West End Curling Club (WECC) group has met with councillors and staff to impress that there is a surge of need in the curling community.

The Golf and Country clubs can also be partners.  The WECC is proposing such a partnership as this article is being written.  Understand the underlying reasons why the Country Clubs act the way they do.  They have a curling hall asset that has been depreciated for fifty years and requires replacement and they did not plan the correct amount of resources to curling as their focus is on golf.  It is timely to give them a rationale that others can handle that asset for them.

Build:  There are underutilized hockey and skating arenas in Toronto.  The WECC has enquired and found two such rinks.  The infrastructure is there.  Hockey has plateaued.  Much of the infrastructure has been depreciated and like the golf clubs they need replacement parts.

Six million dollars will get you a typically Canadian curling facility.  But, perhaps we should be watching the neighbours to the south.  Instead of lounges behind the glass, some American facilities are going the route of ‘warm rooms’.  Warm rooms may or may not be separated from the ice by a permanent wall.  By doing this, the facility could be under a single roof, instead of distinguishing the lounge and ice shed buildings.

Promote:  There is a pent up demand for curling in Toronto, a hidden market of 40,000.  The marketing should be easy, right?  The marketing is different in the urban centres. The Toronto Sport and Social Club is a source of curling enthusiasts if the business plan is premised on rentals. If membership is the model then a creative advertising campaign should be associated with unique leagues and event planning.  Urbanites have more opportunities and therefore want less frequent and unique ways to spend their recreation dollar.

Operate:  Take operations of the facility out of the hands of the public bodies.  Ensure that employees understand the flexibility you need to offer unique programs between 8am and 11pm.

Raise your rates:  The rates need to be subject to the operations, promotion and program costs of your facility.  The business plan will determine the rates that are appropriate.  But, it was said before, the rates today are too low for the urban recreationist.

Toronto can be, and is, a hotbed of curling enthusiasm waiting for the right impresario to seize the moment.  WECC could be that impetus for new facilities.  Curling’s demise is greatly exaggerated.

NOTE: Since this article was written for The Curling News, Glendale Golf Club has determined that there will no longer be curling at its site.  This further confirms the clash between curling and golf cultures.

STRATHCONA CUP 2018

March 16th, 2018
Curling

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.

Collingwood CC – A Curling Success

February 10th, 2017
Curling, Recreation
Summit-2015-on-ice-FI-620x330

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.

ADAPTING TO MID-SEASON INTERRUPTIONS

February 1st, 2016
Curling

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
Curling

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.

 

 

I Never Thought of our Club as a Business?!?!

October 24th, 2015
Curling, Recreation

In 2009, I attended a meeting for a curling club in an Ontario city. The purpose was to determine if I could help them turn the ship around. The presentation talked about income and expenses, marketing and advertising, operations and maintenance. After 20 minutes of presentation, the first response words were “I never thought of our club as a business!?” And this from a business entrepreneur! During the 2015 Fall Zone Meetings, it was those very same words that came from a small town club representative. Those words continue to haunt the halls of Ontario Curling facilities! This has got to stop!

Danny Lamoureux, of Curling Canada, has been pressing Canada’s Curling Clubs to take a business approach to running curling. Seminars are presented by Curling Canada and articles abound on www.curling.ca . Go to Curling Summits… there have been two excellent presentations in Niagara Falls (2014) and Collingwood (July 2015).   At each there were experts in curling products, successful club events and business aficianados. These Summits were oversubscribed evidencing the demand for understanding the business of curling. Could not make it to the seminars? Let me take you through a Q&A:

What are the signs that you have a business?

  1. If you have income over $30,000, your federal government insists you charge HST.
  2. Your board of directors make decisions on expenses and cost of membership.
  3. You have audited accounts.

How do we know if our business is successful?

  1. Your income should exceed your expenses. Seems somewhat like a supercilious statement. But many boards are afraid to increase membership rates for fear of offending friends. The income starts to lag and then the participants become frustrated with the lack of investment in the curling property and they leave. Eventually, expenses become more than income and the curling club gets in trouble.
  2. Income increases annually at least at the federal stated rate of inflation. Beer should be cold but the prices not frozen. Food that cost $5 ten years ago, should now cost $10. Nor should the club sell memberships for the same as last year.
  3. Participants want to spend at their facility in lieu of other options. Track your income per full member player by creating an account distinct to the player. If their annual spending goes down, understand why by analyzing the data. If that is insufficient information, ask the player.

If Curling is a business, how is it a business?

“The two most important parts of curling…ice to curl on, and cold beverages” Facebook comment from Jennifer Foley Opitz of Grande Cache Curling Club. Jennifer has captured her business’s strategy in a sentence. Apparently, Grande Cache CC has both and they are ready to roll in October 2015. As long as the club maintains satisfactory membership and beer sales income, they can continue to have “ice to curl on”. Sounds simple and it can be. The business part is ensuring that income exceeds expenses. And someone, a paid manager or volunteer accountant, has to monitor the balance sheet and operating budget while referring to past successes and watching for future changes in the business environment. Changes for Grande Cache could be boom-bust cycles of coal production and sales in this one-industry town. If a rash of unemployment hits, is the club prepared for the change in disposable income by its members? Reducing the price of memberships and beer is not the answer. Creative membership alternatives, though, might be. Perhaps the members could afford a half fee for half the number of nights. A caveat could include that they will be offered that reduction if they bring in a new player to fill the other days not attending. Now you have doubled the clients and increased potential future revenues.

Where are the revenue streams in a Curling Business?

Memberships – but the culture of recreation is changing. How have you changed your services to accommodate a change in your local culture.

Liquor and Refreshment Sales – This is the second most obvious element of curling business and, fortunate or unfortunately, alcoholic consumption is what we are known for by non-curlers. What is the local price of refreshments? Match the local price. Undercutting because the members are your friends does not make you friends. You provide a value-added service not provided by a bar. Charge for it!

Food Sales – Snacks usually works for clubs. Consider renting your facility to a caterer. They know the food business and you can make a buck on your rental space.

Equipment Sales – This is another opportunity to partner with a company that needs inexpensive floor space in a sports environment.

Floor space – This is your primary revenue stream, both direct and indirect. Directly, you may have space to accommodate Food and Equipment Blaine Minnesota CCSales. It takes little effort and maximizes your utilization. In the off-season, you may have a clear span concrete floored hall, useful for special events or storage rental. The indirect revenues come from the attraction of curling ice. People pay memberships for the right to curl in that floor space. The icy floor space attracts patrons who spend money behind the glass. Create a map of your facility that shows the distinct areas of: ice hall; lounge; closets; offices; games rooms; change rooms. Chart how often each of the areas are used. There will be times when that floor space is not occupied. Now how do you utilize it better? Who are new users? How can the floor space be used differently? Use your imagination! Be Creative! Act like a Business Entrepreneur! Follow what Dragon Kevin O’Leary says: “How do you make me Moooneeey….”

Curling – It’s Our Business

June 25th, 2015
Curling, Recreation

oca_logo_web1_small[1]With the changes at the top of Ontario’s curling administration, the OCA has announced that “We are open for business”.

Yes, curling is a business! If you have 100 members in a two sheet club, then your revenues will be (should be) at least $80,000.  Presumably, your expenditures are less and the business prospers with capital added annually for those (un?)foreseen replacement costs.  A six sheet curling facility should, at minimum have revenues over $300,000. There are curling corporations in Ontario over $1,000,000.  And yet, I interviewed with a club to provide a business planning exercise and one executive board member reacted, “I never thought about the club as a business”.  That is both healthy and naïve.

That is naïve from the standpoint that someone in a decision-making capacity could be spending recklessly or, worse yet, not spending to improve the business.

That is healthy in that there is comfort in the activities within the facility.  In other words, players and executive members are enjoying the sport as they should. A healthy club is one that continuously reinvests in their assets.

Ontario is in a growth pattern, unlike its Manitoba counterpart.  IMG_6572Demand is increasing for experiential facilities – curling centres fit the bill.  Where else can one combine recreation, fitness and social activities all in one place, all in one night, during the dullest of weather? I left out competition. You can include that, and it is the primary reason for about 5% of the curling public, but the growth is in the other 95% - recreation adherents. The York Curling Club (see pic) is one example. The two new sheets were filled to overcapacity (over 100 members per sheet) by the time they were constructed and opened.

Changes to competition are coming, starting with the Annual General Meeting June 28, 2015 and the accompanying workshop prior. OCA has recognized through their administrative changes that their role is changing. Yes, they will continue to promote competitions for the competition elite, but their role should also continue to promote the health of curling in Ontario, with business acuity.

See also: http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/04/03/curling-trends-for-business/

Player’s Championship

April 7th, 2015
Curling, Uncategorized

Will the Grand Slam become the essence of curling in Canada?

The numbers are down for the Brier and Scotties in venues that once filled the rafters. This year, the McEwen team, considered the best in the world, was a no-show at the Brier. The experiment with this year’s Brier – relegation (The “Prior”) and Team Canada(?) – did not flop entirely, but it sure made a curling nation restless. A poor Nova Scotia showing perhaps has Haligonians staying away in droves from their World Championships.

Teams talk of the four year cycle. It has nothing to do with curling’s national events. It has to do with over-the-top Olympic fever. Watch for changes there, too. There are fewer cities willing to fund the extravaganza of sport.

But the Grand Slams have taken on a new flavour! They have expanded this year and television has grabbed hold. They ensure that the best curling is portrayed every time the ice is pebbled. What team does not want to get an invitation? Flag waving often takes place, international teams attend and the money is growing. The live audience needs to grow, but that will come with time. Put the events in appropriate size arenas and demand will lift seat prices. And we are guaranteed to see the best curlers, including Team McEwen. Moose Jaw arena 2015 Scotties

The future of the curling elite game is with the Grand Slam format.