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Curling Trends – For Business

April 3rd, 2015

Recreation Trends

Recreation Trends is the third in a series of three articles. The last two issues of The Curling News featured Technological Adaptation and Financial Planning.

Curling was rocked in the early 1990’s. At the time, many were perplexed at what was happening. The number of participants in bonspiels was trending down and urban curling facilities were closing. Often when one is in the midst of change, there is little understood of the evolution. The accumulated wealth of the baby boom generation, unique to Canada, allowed options for recreation pursuits. High end recreation such as golf courses and ski resorts were in their heyday. Yet nary was a curling club being constructed. Boomers could afford elite. The sport of Curling with its stronghold in the farm communities was not considered an elite sport. But participation in the Olympics was to change its status. The question: Was the sport ready to change with the tide? If the US example is an indicator, then curling there is ready:

“..so far in 2011, USA Curling reports close to a 19 percent increase in total membership in the past year. Even better, since the 2001-02 season, USA Curling’s membership has grown 53 percent from 10,805 to 16,512!” http://www.canadianexpatnetwork.com/public/995.cfm

“During the 2012-13 season, four dedicated curling facilities with a total of 22 sheets of ice were completed.” http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Curling/Clubs/Growth-and-Development/Building-a-Club

For those with physical or program expansion plans , here are a few of the CURRENT TRENDS that could affect your decision making.


Lack of Personal Time because of competition from other recreation pursuits and careers.

Employment outside municipality of residence reduces/changes recreation time due to commute.


  1. Adapt to changing leisure hours
  2. Create flexible program hours


reprinted from www.curling.ca

reprinted from www.curling.ca

2010 National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participatingindicated that voluntarism is rising slightly, but experience in several other communities suggest that many groups still struggle in finding volunteers.

One key result of the national survey was that 18% of the volunteer hours in Canada are in the sports and recreation sector

The rate of voluntarism by those between the ages of 15 and 24 has doubled from 29% in 2000 to 58% in 2007, perhaps largely due to the addition of mandatory volunteer hours for high school students.

Seniors currently represent the most active volunteer group.

Canadian immigrants represent a large proportion of the volunteer pool


  1. Create volunteer positions that have finite time limitations.
  2. Identify the skills of members and flatter them by asking for assistance. “All you have to do is ask”


12% single parent families, increasing 1% over 5 years

Concern with physically inactive parents


  1. Create flexibility.
  2. Introduce more unstructured activities.
  3. Provide opportunities for parents and children to participate at the same time.


Today’s digital age is filled with sedentary activities, resulting in continued concerns regarding physical inactivity. This is most prevalent among youth and children and can lead to significantly increased risk of threatening cardiac events and obesity

The level of physical inactivity increases with age and is the new smoking gun.

Knoxville-20130607-00732Awareness is building. ParticipAction started in the 1990’s and continues.


  1. Market curling as a physically active sport, which relates to everyone’s physical attributes.
  2. Add a fitness facility to the mix of offerings in a multi-use facility


This age demographic intends to keep working after retirement age, possibly through part‐time work or launching new careers:

  • Men want to relax more and spend more time with their spouse.
  • Women see retirement as providing more time for career development, community involvement, and personal growth.

Boomers are moving to put others first (e.g., family, community, etc.) instead of themselves. (They were previously coined as the ‘ME’ generation). This change in attitude may be tapped for an increase in voluntarism.

Immigrant volunteers provide a variety of benefits to organizations including multi‐lingual assets, skill capacity, and providing a new outlook and perspective that may assist service delivery among organizations.


  1. Emphasize growing daylight hour’s participation.
  2. Daytime will become prime time.
  3. Mixed curling opportunities appeal to men.
  4. Family curling opportunities appeal to parents.
  5. Offer volunteer opportunities.
  6. Like golf courses do with course marshals, trade skills for ice time.


The ‘new senior’ will typically be wealthier and more physically active than those in previous generationsage-is-mind-over-matter


  1. Consider facility amenities such as light, water, seating, and accessible washrooms.
  2. Increase daytime use of recreation facilities.
  3. Seniors are seeking opportunities for casual sports, active living, and a greater variety of choices


Level of income is proportional to participation in recreation activities, especially in organized team sports. Given the high cost to participate,

40% of children among households earning over $100,000 are involved in organized physical activities and sports, whereas only 21% of children are involved in these pursuits in households earning less than $50,000.


  1. Market to the higher income demographic
  2. Put less emphasis on reducing the cost of fees and more on improving the experience.


Many cultures view recreation as a family event and are more inclined to pursue activities together. Newcomers to Canada are frequent users of community spaces as these are ideal locations for social gatherings and interaction. The variety of passive and active pursuits between cultures is immense, with many activities serving to define cultures and how they interact. Social gathering spaces are perhaps the most sought after ‘non‐traditional’ recreations.


  1. Identify the demographic of the community. Set a goal to match the demographic in your facility.
  2. Learn the needs of that demographic. When designing the facility accommodate the social gathering space requirements.


The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability, making this group the world’s largest minority.In Canada, the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey conducted by Statistics Canada in 2006 estimated that approximately 4.4 million

Canadians were challenged with a disability, with nearly one‐quarter of those living in Ontario.


  1. For new or renovated facilities, follow AODA requirements.
  2. Program for blind and wheelchair athletes utilizing national programs


Communities are moving away from single‐purpose, stand‐alone facilities in favour of multi‐use facilities that integrate numerous activities and offer economies of scale with respect to construction, maintenance, staffing, and scheduling. Multi‐use facilities are often designed with flexible spaces (e.g., activity rooms, gymnasiums, etc.) that have the potential to expand and easily respond to changing trends and demands of future users.


Design facilities to address demand for recreations that complement curling.


Trails and bike lanes are increasingly accommodating a more active, integrated lifestyle. And, yes, cyclists ride in winter.


  1. Locate close to users
  2. Provide facilities for storage and showers



Curling Customers as Volunteers

March 11th, 2015
Curling, Recreation

In Curling, define the customer and you will uniquely define the volunteer. Let us start with dispelling myths:

Myth #1 – Curling as a sport in Canada is declining

  • Recent statistics from TSN http://www.tsn.ca/tim-hortons-brier-attracts-big-audiences-to-tsn-1.226557 describe that over 2 million persons watched Pat Simmons throw his draw to the button in the 2015 Brier final – an increase of 29% over the final in 2014.
  • Bids to host the Olympic Trials are competitive, even at $1m for the rights.
  • Curling recruitment swells after each Olympics across Canada.

Myth #2 – Voluntarism is waning

  • My personal experience at the Ontario Scotties and the Brier – there were TOO MANY VOLUNTEERS, many of whom were in the way, despite the fact that they always wanted to assist.
  • When I volunteered for a Brier, I had to pay to volunteer…. and gladly, to enjoy an event that comes but once a year.
  • Member volunteers want to help, but clubs fail to provide the right opportunities to suit the recruit. See Volunteer Segmentation below.
  • Parents want to become involved with their children – volunteering gives them the opportunity.

Myth #3 – Members will leave if we raise the cost of membership fees

  • Compare the cost of curling to any sport. Curling is undervalued. Your kid can play recreation hockey for $1,200 per year or curl for $120. If cost is a deterrent, then this is a no-brainer. Get into or stay in the market before it takes off and fee charges suit the demand.
  • Curling is a business. A not-for-profit business needs to cover costs. Costs include capital improvements. Capital improvements should be funded over time. A capital fee should therefore be applied. (See my article December issue of The Curling News). Curling members will pay the fee when the logical business explanation is given.

Myth #4 – Curling sport is steeped in traditions; changes with technology are not warranted.

  • How many times have you had to explain the scoreboard to a new curling recruit? The hell with tradition, give them an intuitive electronic numbering system that takes the guesswork out of scoring the game.
  • Electronics costs have plummeted with miniaturization. Get your club some good cameras and screens and supply spectators, coaches and players a common tool to analyse the game!
  • Relate to youth who have been nurtured on electronics. Use your imagination – slide speed, rock curl, rock speed, sweeping effectiveness… all can be electronically evaluated and analysed, and at little cost.

Coquitlam - great viewing CUSTOMER SEGMENTATION

Customers are those for whom we are creating value. But, who are our most important customers? First, Curling is a Niche Market, segmented by:

  • Age
  • Skill
  • Activity level
  • Wealth

To be successful, we must determine the type of relationship each of our customer segments expect us to establish and maintain with them. For Age, most clubs have a gap between 20 and 40. It is the time when youth go away to school, try to establish a career and raise young families. They are distracted from their former junior social circle of curling. It does not have to be! The Royals, in Toronto has re-invented itself as a cool place for 20- and 30-somethings to hang. Chinguacousy CC in Brampton, Ontario launched under-35 competitions or clinics in 2014 with resounding success. The age gap is created only by clubs that are resistant to change.

Regarding skill, Canada has seen reduced competitive curling entries. Does that mean that skills are declining? Resounding No! To enjoy a sport recreationally, the skill needs to be nurtured. Successful clubs engrain training into the curriculum.

Activity level is the amount of recreation or fitness in which your customer wants to partake. Recreation curlers can be junkies, but the fact remains that some want to curl but spend less time doing it! Define which describes your member market and you will succeed. Why does a league need to be once a week? Why not once a month? Or only in October and November for SnoBirds?

Curlers, demographically, are above average income earners. Referring back to Myth #3, if that is correct, then fees would be less of a burden on the curling demographic. What the curling customer wants is value. Sport and recreation are counter balances to stressful work environments. Create a social, stress-free environment, and they will come knocking.


Curling Customers desire to be part of the organization, to make it their own and to have an influence on what best suits their own purposes. Volunteering enhances social experience at a curling facility. Just as there is segmentation for customers, so too are there segments for volunteers:


  • This segment includes managers and professionals. When they retire, they are looking for time fillers.
  • As physical capabilities decline, seniors may look for other less vigorous activities. Volunteering for administrative work and coaching fits the bill.


  • High School students are looking to fill volunteer hours obligatory in many provinces.
  • Voluntarism makes an impression on the résumé.
  • University and colleges look at volunteer hours as part of the evaluation for candidate students.


  • Participation promotes bonding with children.
  • Involvement ensures that children are in a safe environment.
  • Directing activities also directs their children to interact with suitable compatriots.

Business persons

  • Positions on boards impress others.
  • Volunteering increases contacts with future clients.
  • Applying professional skills not only enhances the image, but hones the skills.

In each of the segments above, there is one common ingredient: a need to be given responsibility. Dole out responsibility to your customers and they will become your volunteers. Give a finite task to any of your customers, and they will gladly lend a hand, knowing that it contributes to the experience and is not a life sentence. As an aside: I attended the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary. During two consecutive between-ends distractions, I became conflicted with the response to the presentations. The first was the snare rapping and cymbals slashing of the surprisingly young 9 year-old Jaxon Smith, likely paid entertainment. There was an immediate and long standing ovation for the young Phenom. In the next break, Curling Canada presented their 2015 Volunteer Award to Harvey Lyons, who relaunched his Lorette, Manitoba curling club, raising it from the solvency fires like the proverbial Phoenix. This feat took many years of 40-hour unpaid work weeks to accomplish. The response from the audience… polite applause from those who had not left for beer. Volunteers do not require payment or accolades, but Harvey Lyons deserved a better response.

See also:



reprinted from www.curling.ca

Harvey Lyons – reprinted from www.curling.ca


February 19th, 2015

Curling can attract spectators. One needs to identify the attraction parameters. Here are most recent spectator statistics as provided by Canadian Curling Association:


2010 Halifax 390,096 107,242
2011 London 366,151 113,626
2012 Saskatoon 222,189 177,226
2013 Edmonton 812,201 190,113
2014 Kamloops 85,678 65,005



2010 Sault Ste. Marie 75,141 49,436
2011 Charlottetown 35,000 48,473
2012 Red Deer 90,564 94,997
2013 Kingston 123,363 65,825
2014 Montreal 1,649,519 39,063

There is seemingly little or no correlation between host city population and attendance. There is little trend to the increasing or decreasing popularity of the events over time. So what can we surmise? First consider other sports:

  • Seven Game final NHL Hockey series are usually but not always sold out;
  • Baseball World Series – SRO;
  • Badminton championships have non-existent fans in North America, but watch out in Indonesia;
  • Soccer anytime fills stands in England and Spain;
  • Cricket creates riots in India and Pakistan;
  • Could Super Bowl attract the audience without half time show and commercials?

Why do they succeed in attracting spectators; and conversely, why not? Let’s look at it through the marketing lens:

Regionality – In the case of successful sport events, the sport is engrained in the national culture. Cricket and badminton have regional clusters of culture. Baseball similarly has a regional (American) appeal. Frequently, front row seats are available at Blue Jays games, but in the USA, the national pastime passion fills the seats in select cities. Hockey is Canada’s game, which is why you can walk-in to playoff series in Tampa and Carolina while lowly Toronto teams’ seats still command a hefty sum even on losing streaks. Soccer, it seems, has the greatest universality. Even Toronto can attract spectators to BMO field. Curling has yet to achieve the national cultural identity of hockey, but it can come. Curling has its strongest culture regionally in the Prairie provinces. Analysing the population to attendance ratios in the stats above, though, you might interpret that there is also a niche in PEI.

Entertainment Value– The event is not all on the ice. Most Super Bowl spectators are avid American football fans, but there is testament to attendees being there to be seen or to fulfil a bucket list. Few attendees (unlike curling spectators) are football players. TV viewers are divided between football and half-time show aficionados. The Brier/Scotties has to become a non-curlers’ “go-to” event, and/or contain other entertainment value to draw non-curlers to its event. Suggestions: apply music more liberally, at gaps between games or 5th end break and at the Patch; Increase the media, outside traditional curling channels; and create month-long build-up of mini-events to the BIG events. IMG_00000571

The Patch was the debacle of the Kamloops 2014 Brier. While the stands were less than half full, the locals secured seats at the Patch precluding curling fans from celebrating with their peers and heroes. The talk on the street was of anger that attendees in the seats were not guaranteed seats at the Patch. Although I gained access to the Patch, it was not the same as a year previous in Edmonton. In Edmonton, one could rub shoulders with the players and the casual acquaintances you met in the stands. In Kamloops, lineups outside had more people to whom I could relate than the crowd inside the Patch. If Kamloops organizers suffered at the gate, the CCA suffered more from Patch fall-out. The Patch at Briers, Olympic Trials or Scotties is curling’s most sacred emblem of camaraderie and fun. See Entertainment Value above.

Embracing Oddball Antics – Consider the news items that are generated from curling events. The SOCIABLES are a group of 10 Edmontonians who clothe and charm their way to notoriety at Briers. At the last four Briers, they became a presence and a valued asset to organizing committee’s, so much so that Pat Ryan invited them to Kamloops 2014 Brier just to add that entertainment value. Antics of individuals play a key role in curling event history. Flag runners such as John Francis in Harbin, China World Universiade and Jack Cox from Lindsay, Ontario at Briers become featured in local and national news (“Jack Cox, the elderly gentleman whose mad sprints with a massive flag have inspired Ontario curlers and thrilled crowds at 18 Briers, has been stopped by organizers, who are worried his dashes through the John Labatt Centre aisles are too dangerous”). Sometimes, as in Edmonton’s 2013 Brier, players throw caution to the wind and play to the audience. When it seemed that Kevin Martin could get in with a loss by Ontario’s Howard team, the crowd tried to throw him off his game with noise. Glenn embraced that heckling with a “bring-it-on” gesture, thus lightening and enlivening the crowd atmosphere.   Guy Hemmings in his Brier years became an entertainment specialist and how Jeff Stoughton brings a crowd to life with his 360 spinarama delivery (only when out of contention).

Voluntarism – Volunteers can be your best marketing tools. When asked what they are doing March 1 to 9, 2015 they will proudly announce that they get close to the scene of an exciting event. People attract more people. Organizing committees will include a marketing subcommittee, frequently led by experienced and creative marketers. With leadership, this group will generate enough noise to infuse interest outside the curling clubs of the vicinity.

Venue size should match the event expectations – While the Brier and Olympic Trials can command a venue the size of an NHL Arena in the Prairies, the Scotties appears more successful in a 5000 seat ice house in regional curling centres. Venues can also benefit from event results, as happened in Kingston where Team Homan attracted plenty from Ottawa for their 2013 playoff push.

Distance from the action. Like tennis, the size of the projectile is insignificant to the size of the venue. Think of curling as if it was a concert. The spectators in the nose bleed sections need some intimacy, too. At a concert, large screens project that intimacy. Curling could benefit from similar large screens, like the ones that entertain the Patch attendees. Adopt/adapt more technology to allow spectators a clear idea of what is happening within the four foot of the pin. An app perhaps?

Cross Market with other sports: What if flag bearers were in-line skating hockey players; or Olympians of rhythmic gymnastics or trampoline expressed their skills in the ends of the rinks between games or fifth end break. Toronto could market the Pan Am Games at this year’s Scotties, introducing cycling and fencing for their own cross-marketing. Remember, other sports have similar challenges of audience. Work with them. UNITE!

Finding the right urban centre – In http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2011/06/06/top-10-cities-with-the-most-sports-championships, the top ten US cities for championship hosting are primarily based on size of population. Yet, in curling, figures show that Montreal had one of the poorest attendances of any Scotties. All persons interviewed for this article consider Toronto a lost cause as a venue city. Why? There is too much competition for what is still a fledgling sport of curling. Curling can attract spectators, by recognizing:

  • that there are partnerships to embrace;
  • respect for the curling public;
  • other entertainment to be provided as part of major events; and,
  • curling has a National Culture, it just needs nurturing.

This article is similar to edited version in http://thecurlingnews.com/subscribe/

See other curling related blogs at: http://yorkurbanist.com/blog/


February 3rd, 2015
Curling, Uncategorized

As an avid fan of the Brier, it is sad to see the controversy surrounding the changes made by Canadian Curling AXsociation.  If you follow Eastern Canada journalism in 2015, you will find a concern that one of Adam Casey (PEI) or (former Brier Champion from NS) Mark Dacey will not be in the Brier this year because of relegation (assuming they make it through the province). Accordingly, here is a solution for which no charge will be billed to CCA:



This simple change to format would give all teams a minimum of 7 games to prove their worth during the round robin.  As for the championship round, six teams would emerge with the top teams getting a bye to the semi-final. (Click on the image to enlarge and remove fuzziness)


Not including tiebreakers, the winning team will play at least 9 games. No one will deny the depth of curling in Alberta to warrant two teams from that province. Yes, there is a potential national audience killer – if either only Ontario or Alberta  teams end up in the final. But it happens in baseball and football, so what?

Add to this, there is money in a Scotties or a Brier, provincial or national. See http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/01/29/2015-ontario-scotties-as-economic-generator/

2015 will be a telling year. It will tell CCA:

  • No province or territory wants relegation: we are better than that;
  • Audiences will be lost. Translation: fewer curlers in potential growth jurisdictions;
  • Grand Slams could take over as events for national attention.  The Brier is already losing its shine and its attendance. Grand Slam events are televised and have gained TV and live streaming audiences;
  • Calgary fans/attendees will be their usual full-house if there is an Albertan team in the final.  If not, then revenues will not meet plan, likening to the financial fiasco in Kamloops in 2014.
  • IMG_00000529

    Kamloops Brier 2014 – Note crowd in the stands

2015 Ontario Scotties As Economic Generator

January 29th, 2015

What do you think was the economic stimulus of the 2015 Ontario Scotties?  Description: Small venue, 10 teams of four women and a coach, capacity of 250 persons viewing… Dismiss not this valuable commodity.  Consider this:

The Total Economic Impact is comprised of Direct and Indirect expenditures. There are also Induced values.

IMG_00003040Direct Impacts result from expenditures by the organizing committee  and Ontario Curling Association. The expenditures include:

  • employment of staff
  • goods and services to run the event
  • provisions to volunteers and organizers

Indirect Impacts result from the expenditures by individual participants in the event such as volunteers (est. 75), players/coaches (50+), officials (15), families/friends of participants (100+), other visitors (150+) primarily spending on:

  • Hotels
  • Meals
  • Beverages
  • Transportation: fuel; maintenance; rental
  • other externalities

Induced Impacts results from the employees and local residents purchasing good and services during the event, external to normal purchasing. This is a difficult number to evaluate, but assumptions can be made that this event stimulates spending on things other than what happened at the Penetanguishene Curling Club.  The resulting profits from the event will further be expended to improve the Curling Club.  It is the Induced Impacts that warrant the Town’s encouragement to sports groups to be active. And what of the local, provincial and national media attention!!?? There were impacts of which no exact monetary value can be assigned.

To evaluate, consider the time over which planning and actual tournament operations occur.  The planning is one year for a 7-day event.

Travel Impact Industry General Weight
Accommodations 85%
Food Services 20%
Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation 50%
Retail 5%
Ground Transportation 13%

Without getting into the evaluative details, 2015 Ontario Scotties generated over  $250,000 into the local economy.  This is not a minor economic generator for a small population centre.  The organizers are to be commended for their diligence and community spirit.  Take that to your councillors and area businesses.

If you desire further detail regarding the evaluation, you can contact Mark Inglis at [email protected]


Ontario Curling playdowns – the other events…

January 7th, 2015

Richard Hart has allayed all concerns that Team Howard has any bitter grapes by his post on http://www.curlingzone.com/showthread.php?s=0328a69a40dd7ed2625573281ca36dd8&forumid=&tp=0&sp=&postid=138098#post138098 .  He points to change in the management of Ontario Curling Association.  But Richard is a better player than most.  He has sons in bantams and juniors.  They also need change in playdown format.  Unequal zones lead to unequal results and sometimes lesser teams making provincials.  Illness or bereavement could prevent teams who have worked hard from becoming provincial champions.  Life lesson learned… but is it fair. We only need to look at the Olympic qualification process to find an answer.

A New Formula

OCT standings 2014Through four years of interstitial performances, the country can find the best qualified teams.  In Ontario, the period between September and December is a long enough period to establish the best we have in any of the events, seniors, juniors, masters, ladies and mixed. The period currently is two short weekends, many of which (zones) either have no entries or direct award. Ontario Curling Tour http://www.ontariocurlingtour.com/ and Ontario Junior Curling Tour http://ojct.ca/ each have systems in place to award points.  In a new system, the top two teams in those tours get direct entry.  OJCT events are hard to get into and therefore has not enough events, but watch it grow! OCT events usually fill, but those that do not, will find no difficulty in gaining teams.  Seniors also have competitions by which points may be gained – see TCA’s initiative https://www.torontocurling.com/circuit/ . TCA circuit But in my dream playdown structure, not only will the top two teams gain from points, but the teams with fewer points will have a leg up in the qualification for Regions.

Regional Playdowns

Having spent September through December playing in point-accumulating spiels, teams will enter the OCA competition with a reasonable fee for a two step process. The fees will be put toward hiring a designated and certified icemaker; consistent set of rocks; and a venue (arena or club facility) that evokes the credibility of the event it hosts. The points gained in spiels will seed the teams in the triple knock-out draw for 16-teams per 4 regions.  A team must consist of members of OCA, but no club specific designation need be made, except to receive a banner at the end of the Regions.  Once the 16-team field is filled in one region, then openings in other regions are available to latecomers or lower points earners. The Benefits:

  • Consistency: of ice; of play; of venue
  • Marketing Potential to build this sport that is starting to rival hockey on the airwaves;
  • Revenue producing for a club (such as Ingersoll and Penetanguishene for 2015 provincials) who can prepare, knowing how many teams are arriving;
  • Investment of Time by players, who know that the risk of illness will not put them out of competition – a healthy leap of qualified athletes in the sport of curling.
  • Pride in five distinct events (4 regions, 1 provincial per age/gender group)

Events Rationalized

Mixed Doubles: Is trending hard but still in the trial stages. The challenge is on the list, but it could follow the formula above.  ADD

MD-Fri-Howard-Bobbie-Makichuk-resized[1] Colts has had its day.  It has become the event that was intended for middle range competitors, but resulted in losers from the Tankard or Provincial Seniors who could somehow wipe away tears. ELIMINATE

Challenge Rounds: No longer needed! Hooray!   ELIMINATE

Gore Mutual Schoolboys/girls:  What is this if not the Ontario Federation of Secondary Schools Association playdowns.  ELIMINATE.

Imagine the costs saved by clubs that give up their ice time for sometimes non-existent Zones.  One less tier of events for OCA will allow that cost to be put into the more important Regions. Costs and family time saved by players who no longer enter a zone event that could have 16 teams or none. And perhaps, the officials could get a small stipend and costs.

In addition to provincial change, check out my suggested national changes http://yorkurbanist.com/2015/02/03/brier-championships-alternative-format/

Unique Curling Programs

January 1st, 2015
Curling, Recreation

Has your club got a program that attracted an unexpectedly large number of participants, spectators or cash?

We would like to know about it. You may even get published!

Email: [email protected] ; or  Tweet to @yorkurbanist ; or FaceBook Mark Inglis

You have less than a month to share.


images[8]  Here are some page references:



Death and Life of a Curling Club

October 27th, 2014

The 1960’s were golden years for curling. Space travel and Canada’s Centennial were generators of optimism. The Government of Canada encouraged building with grants that would transform towns in celebration of 100 years of confederation. And the sport of curling celebrated with multiple new facilities. At $100 a year, curling was an affordable sport. And for dinner, McDonald’s offered a meal that came with change from your dollar. The club was a place where guys could hang out, away from the rigours of family. Sons would have the opportunity to join in their teens. Timeline: 50 years later. The celebrations, that once haled new arenas, are now about founding members. But what of the facilities? The décor remains distinctly 1960’s – you know – dark wood panelling lounge; fluorescent and sometimes incandescent lights; uninsulated concrete block walls, maybe a quanset hut; and, of course, the centrepiece bar. And the programs? Well, women are allowed in the building, in fact, they have their own leagues. Heck, even some club presidents are women. That baby boom demographic, now seniors, is filling daytime league hours. Youth curling starts kids at age 6, sometimes younger. But the ‘Tween years, 21 to 45, ..where’d they go? And Canada’s culture? Drinking and driving is discouraged, and smoking is disallowed in buildings. Twenty-somethings are unaware of life without internet and other technologies. The Olympics has transformed curling into a sport from a recreation. Voluntarism is prescribed into high school curricula, but voluntarism continues to wane. On Death and Dying Some facilities in urban areas have disappeared. And why, you ask? The reason: lack of Technological Adaptation, slow to follow Recreation Trends and poor Financial Planning by clubs. The lands on which curling arenas were built now have higher and better uses in the middle of Canada’s metropolises. Curling Facilities can thrive and be a part of those higher and better uses. Some suburban and rural facilities only survive by limiting financial costs using voluntarism. Other facilities simply carry on, hoping that the CCA’s annual Capital Assistance Program will get them another 6 month season of reprieve. Gaining Life In this issue, we will talk Technical Adaptation and how it can instill life into a facility. Technical Adaptation:

  • Construction practices: Few new clubs have been built in Canada, but lasers and other construction technologies, mechanical/electrical, have offered previously unattainable improvements to the accuracy of ice making. Building codes now insist on well insulated buildings and construction excellence. Green buildings built or renovated to code will ensure reduced costs of operations and more comfortable facilities.
  • Water technology has improved. Firms like Jet-Ice, introduced water purification and demineralization, to make ice conditions better. Fewer complaints from wannabe world champions translate into less manipulation of ice conditions by ice makers.
  • 2014-10-07 16.33.52Scoreboards remain in the dark ages. Why has curling not adopted digital technology? With the push of a button or remote, change the score, so that folks new to the sport can understand. Would the seniors call it heresy?
  • TV monitors: Many facilities have installed cameras and TV monitors to watch the far end ice. Most monitors are for the spectators, but they can be useful on-ice as well! Replays? I have yet to see this possibility included on an ice TV monitor. That technology was available in the 1960’s! Mounted outside the glass, in the ice arena, a monitor can be accessed by spectators in the lounge and players. Mounted inside, only spectators get the benefit. Better yet, two monitors. Either way is an improvement to encourage patrons to stay in the lounge, spending and contributing to the corporate bottom line. And can you imagine a computer screen by the window to check out scores here at our club and around the globe?
  • Instruction tools: Where are the digital cameras and strategy rooms? Curling has roving camps that bring in ‘delivery-changing’ devices that are easily within financial reach of any facility and address the lexicon of the new curler. A camera is all you need to analyze slides and sweeping techniques. A computer, inexpensive programs and a small meeting room is all that is needed to discuss strategy and review the camera work. The investment of $1-5,000 can get you a classroom and a class facility. That investment could be recuperated in one year of teaching, with an organized business model.

Next month: Financial Planning for Curling Facilities This article appears in The Curling News, November 2014, Volume 58, Issue 1 with a different photo.


April 20th, 2014
Curling, Recreation

In the coming weeks, this blog will create a hypothetical and entrepreneurial approach to rebuilding the sport of curling in the fictional community of Aasvogel, Ontario.  The story is based on a true life and death of a curling club. Curling is not a dying sport as reported elsewhere. The seeds of curling are able to be planted in any community.

Starting as a Dutch farm community, the village became affected by the changing Greater Toronto Area.  The farm-predominant community looked for activities for the winter. Scots farm immigrants had started a four-sheet curling club in 1951.The Scots imported curling and together one hundred formed a group who built a community centre mostly with volunteer labour and donated materials. Through the 1950’s and 1960’s, the membership grew to 250 but little else changed. Volunteers continued to run the club, making ice, catering events and running leagues for men.  Children of the founding members, baby boomers, provided the regeneration needed to sustain the club into the golden years of curling, the 1970’s. But some things changed.  The third generation was not large enough to provide natural growth for the club. Women wanted to join.  Opportunities to leave the community drew high schoolers to universities away from home. 

But alas, the community demographics changed while the curling membership stood still. Attrition at the normal rate of 15% was not countered by new members from a changing community.  Word-of-mouth had always worked in the past (1951 to 1980). But the club closed in 1988, unable to meet cost obligations. In 2014, the community of Aasvogel is a typical suburban community, population 20,000, whose cultural makeup continues to change.

So what happened?

During the later life of the club, new generations of immigrants and urban dwellers were buying into the community, because there was more land for less cost.  The town population was growing but the club membership was shrinking.

And the sport, in 1988, was isolated to a knowledgeable group of recreationists.

The volunteer board struggled with the shrinkage, not risking their friendships in the farm community by changing directions and fees. Why change what worked in the past?

Finally, the cost of replacing the 30 year-old compressor and plant parts would require $300,000. With fewer than 200 members, the board could not find the money through either donations nor fee increases and the club was forced to close.

What really went wrong?

Fear of Change: This was a proud club formed around a distinct demographic.  The members became comfortable, so much so that there was little long-term planning. The demographic change was coincident with population growth.  The club board failed to engage the new community members. 

Competition: The new community members were unfamiliar with the sport, the Town of Aasvogel built and subsidized an arena in which hockey dominated.  The arena was multi-functional, providing a facility available to the new community members.

Planning, Operations and Budget: The aging curling building had construction/maintenance problems, making it a hazardous facility, and not up to current regulations.  Without capital having been accumulated to cover depreciation of the asset, there was no fund to replace the asset.

Weakening Voluntarism:  Suburbanization caused families to spend more time commuting to workplaces.  Women joined the workforce in ever increasing numbers.  Adult volunteers became more scarce daytime and evenings.  The operations of the formerly volunteer run club struggled to continue without changing their program.

Demographic Change: The former curling demographic no longer could populate the club naturally. The new immigrant population was not educated about the sport.  The aging population does not bode well for the future of the curling club.

Does any of this hit home?  In the coming articles, we suggest that a new community curling facility can be built. We will break the steps down in each article.

Go to http://yorkurbanist.com/recreation/curling/curling-a-recreation-to-a-business/re-forming-the-core-group/ to see the next steps.



Curling – Year of Youth 2013

April 29th, 2013
Curling, Sports


Youth Reigns
- Rachel Homan’s team (ages 23-27) wins Scotties
- Brad Jacob’s Team (ages 27-33) wins Brier
- Niklas Edin Swedish Team (ages 24-25) wins Worlds
- Eve Muirhead (21) wins Worlds

Curling legitimized its place as a sport of athletes through the results of this transition year. The timing could not be better as the Olympics are less than a year away and contemplating growth of the number of golds to the sport. Although Martin, Stoughton and Howard continue to hold court at the 8-end events, they weakened during the weeklong Brier. The fittest survived as did the Scotties champions.

Interestingly, it was the seniors of Canada who pulled off the double gold. You’ll say we told you so about Canada’s dominance with those results, but that is just evidence that the players of the past had less requirement to be the fittest…but perhaps they were the craftiest.

Crafty is what Howard, Martin and Stoughton have, but Martin’s loss of Johnny Morris will further weaken his ability to win unless he comes up with a youthful, crafty and fit replacement. And Colleen Jones this year showed skills of the past, but next year will watch the youth of Nova Scotia vie for the Scotties, I suspect.

What I liked to see this year was the emergence of an active and youth oriented sport stateside. The USA has seen more dedicated ice added to the landscape and more in the offing. One off the podium at the US championships, 31 year old Tyler George enlisted the 25 year old Chris Plys to vice. And then there is the just out of juniors Dropkin team in the hunt for nationals and colleges. The Ontario Junior Curling Tour has been around since Wes Johnson invented it in 2004. Nine years and growth of competition was the breeding ground for Homan and Jacobs. Look at the website now. You will read names of future national champions.

Curling is healthy, growing in Ontario and Quebec and USA, and Mixed Doubles has become infectious in Europe as success (and Canada’s lack of success) breeds an excitement that will, in a generation, create a sport that becomes less dominated by the origin-claimant nations. Watch for another spurt of new curling fans and participants with the results coming in from Sochi.
Curling Clubs: prepare yourselves to grow your membership via the Olympic (and youthful) movement!