Curling – Two Sheets to Four Sheets
Canada boasts the largest number of dedicated curling sheets of any country. But many were built over 30 years ago. Two sheet clubs served the rural communities of Canada where population centres were 500 to 10,000 people. Places like Russell, near Ottawa and Churchill, near Toronto were central recreation facilities for farm families of the past. Curling, you see, was the ideal sport for the farmers, whose crops were harvested in late fall and planting started in April, coincidentally leaving the normal curling season as their prime recreation time.
Thirty years is the economic life of most edifices, recreation or otherwise. Until recently, mortgages in Canada could be 30 years. Capital depreciation of buildings is 30 years. Accordingly, curling administrators must put aside appropriate capital for replacement. At an estimated (2012) cost of replacement of $500,000 per sheet, and 100 curlers per sheet, that is $166 per curler per year that should be saved by the curling executive. That number will no doubt shock your curling executive. Of course, many curling facilities last over 50 years, which reduces that capital need to under $100.
Churchill remains a two-sheet club, confined by its property boundaries. Russell, alternatively, had land holdings on which to grow. And nearby Ottawa has demographically grown four-fold since the first club was built. So, in 2010, Russell Curling Club doubled their curling facility, based on a defining business plan.
The Canadian Curling Association has evaluated that the sport’s penetration is 2%. A six-sheet club will require an unserviced population of 30,000. The four-sheet club needs 20,000. This is the current population of King Township, Ontario, where a four-sheet facility was newly opened in 2011. Membership in King has exceeded projections after two years. Whereas full membership of 100 per sheet was projected in 6-8 years, the first year had enrollment of 350. In Russell, Ontario, the population is just over 15,000. Enlisted membership is similar to King’s, likely due to the influence of population development in the west and south areas of the Ottawa Valley. Another factor is growth of the sport.
Could King or Russell have grown to 6 or 8 sheets? For King, within 20 minutes drive, is another 20,000 population centre of Bolton in the Town of Caledon. No doubt the facility has benefited from that population base whose closest facility is Chinguacousy Curling Club, more than 20 minutes south. The business plan by King has succeeded and, with a permanent staff member required by a six sheet facility, likely could have thrived with 6 sheets. Russell’s population base also is not the defining market, however, there is another nearby club with whom they must compete. An aggressive marketing plan, and unique program would need to be implemented, and would benefit from a champion and effective succession plan to ultimately recreate Russell Curling Club into a “Centre of Curling”. Their decision to grow from 2 to 4 sheets was both conservative and prudent.
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