York Urbanist

Posts Tagged ‘curling business’

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.