York Urbanist

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW – CURLING CLUB OWNERSHIP MODELS

Many times in the past year, public/private ownership conversations arose.  Should we simplify our accounting and partner with the municipality?  How do we start a new curling club? How do we speed up the dedicated curling facility process?

The ultimate decision is how the curling facility will be owned and managed. The mix of involvement of government is boundless.  Indeed, government is only too eager to take your taxes whether or not you partner with them in the business.  United States curling clubs are less inclined to purposely partner with municipalities. It will be of interest to Canadians that of the 311 US clubs 198 operate from arenas owned by others. Those arenas are usually privately owned facilities.

Before you consider ownership changes for your club, consider these five club models:

  1. Private – own land and buildings; maintain ice; program management
  2. Private – own buildings; maintain ice; program management
  3. Private – own rocks and equipment (chattels); maintain ice; program management
  4. Private – contract ice maintenance; program management
  5. Public – all maintenance and management by municipal recreation

Consider the benefits and risks of each:

1. PRIVATE – OWN LAND AND BUILDINGS; MAINTAIN ICE; PROGRAM MANAGEMENT

Examples: York CC, Newmarket, Ontario; Royal Montreal CC; Calgary CCCalgary-20130705-00964 – each has a manager and ice maker, but they are very different cultures.  York CC has six sheets and a relatively small lounge with bar and kitchen.  Royal Montreal is three sheets with a large behind the glass entertainment area. Calgary has shareholders and members on an eight sheet ice shed and generous lounge.    Their ownership models may be similar, but their business models are unique.

Benefits/Advantages:

  1. Land and building are available for collateral for future repairs and / or replacement;
  2. Greatest sense of ownership by the members;
  3. Variety of marketing and program opportunities afforded by your business plans; and,
  4. Board controls all aspects of the business.

Risks/Disadvantages:

  1. Complex financial planning includes building depreciation, property taxes and curling programs;
  2. Burden on the existing membership to keep all aspects operating;
  3. Land holding and maintenance is outside the purist’s view of the business of curling; and,
  4. Requires specialist assistance in areas outside business of curling.

 

2. PRIVATE – OWN BUILDINGS; MAINTAIN ICE; PROGRAM MANAGEMENT

Examples: Oakville CC; imagesCA3EC3LSBurlington CC – each hires a general manager and ice maker.  Both successfully fill their membership maximum of over 120 per sheet. These clubs require capital reserves to survive a catastrophic event such as an ice plant malfunction. Staffing varies with the size of membership and ice utilization.

Benefits/Advantages

  1. Building collateral for future repairs and / or replacement;
  2. Sense of ownership by the members in the building and its operations;
  3. Variety of marketing and program opportunities afforded by your business plans; and,
  4. Control of all aspects of the curling business except land maintenance.

Risks/Disadvantages:

  1. Complex financial planning without property tax issues;
  2. Burden on the existing membership to keep all aspects but land maintenance operating;
  3. Land can be used for other purposes by the owners;
  4. If the owners are the municipality, then approvals for any change or request will be slow; and,
  5. No land collateral for borrowing in the future.

 

3. PRIVATE – OWN ROCKS AND EQUIPMENT (CHATTELS); MAINTAIN ICE; PROGRAM MANAGEMENT

Example: Brampton CC is managed by the City of Brampton staff who may have responsibilities at other facilities.

Benefits/Advantages

  1. Sense of ownership by the members in its operations;
  2. Control of all aspects of the curling business; and,
  3. Less Complex financial planning without property issues.

Risks/Disadvantages:

  1. Land and building can be used for other purposes by the owners;
  2. If the owners are the municipality, then approvals for any change or request will be slow; and,
  3. No land or building collateral for borrowing in the future.

 

4. PRIVATE – CONTRACT ICE MAINTENANCE; PROGRAM MANAGEMENT

Examples: Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) CC; King CC, Schomberg, OntarioKing curling and arena – Pittsburgh rents their facility from private land owners while King CC leases the dedicated curling facility from the municipality. There are no club employees and the programs are entirely volunteer run. Golf Clubs with curling facilities fit this model.

Benefits/Advantages

  1. Sense of ownership by the members in its programs;
  2. Control of most aspects of the curling program business;
  3. No personnel hiring requirements; and,
  4. Less Complex financial planning without property and personnel issues.

Risks/Disadvantages:

  1. No land or building collateral for future capital repairs and / or replacement;
  2. Burden on the curling club membership to operate programs;
  3. Land and building can be used for other purposes by the owners – Scarboro G&CC and Weston Golf in Toronto are recent examples of how the control of operations can be wrested from the curling club;
  4. If the owners are the municipality, then approvals for any change or request will be slow; and,
  5. Building maintenance and hiring of specialist ice making may be handled by those outside the curling fraternity.

 

5. PUBLIC – ALL MAINTENANCE AND MANAGEMENT BY MUNICIPAL RECREATION

Examples: Murrayfield Curling Rink, Edinburgh, Scotland DSC_4928has seven curling sheets and is home to 80 distinct curling clubs.  The clubs run independently and rent ice and lounge time from the facility owners.  Most swimming pools in Canada and other single purpose facilities such as squash and tennis operate by municipalities similarly. Curling in Canada tends not to operate in that manner.

Benefits/Advantages

  1. No administrative building functions by curlers;
  2. More pay as you play flexibility; and,
  3. Small groups can find ice time to suit their schedules.

Risks/Disadvantages:

  1. No building collateral for future repairs and / or replacement;
  2. No sense of ownership by the members in the building and its operations;
  3. Limited control of all aspects of the curling operations; and,
  4. If the owners are the municipality, then approvals for any change or request will be slow.

Given this information, clubs have to determine if theirs is a business or a recreation.

As a business, the club will have to understand the users – members; or recreationists.  The users may be individuals, groups or four-person teams who look for a variety of curling experience. Individuals who are looking for an outing on occasion, such as weekend warrior golfers do, might seek either a municipal pay-as-you-play or a private facility that has an inclusive public business plan.

Many Canadian dedicated private facilities have evoked a sense of exclusivity, catering only to members.  The tide has changed.  The curling market has to compete with other recreations: sports, arts and electronics. The latent curling market wants flexibility of access. If your facility has a strong following, then maintain the course. If membership is decreasing, then modify your business plan to a more flexible schedule.

If your club is geared to the recreation public, then you will want to trend toward more government run facilities.  Understand that the fate of the facility is out of your control and at the whim of the owners. You will need a contingency plan, should the facility have a catastrophic calamity or change in use.

There are challenges with all the ownership models. You may want to decide on your ownership model based on the devil you know.

 

See also: http://yorkurbanist.com/curling/curling-services/