The Nelson Curling Club is between a rock and a hard place.
President Gordon Weiss revealed the club suffered a loss of $33,160 last year at the club’s annual general meeting Sunday, and said it can no longer pay the bills necessary to stay open under its current contract with the city.
“If we had 100 more members we wouldn’t have financial problems,” said Weiss. “But that’s where we are.”
Where they are is in trouble.
The club built its current home in 1973, but sold it to the city in 1994. A 20-year lease agreement meant the club operated the building and took on all its costs, but Weiss says that agreement expired three years ago and is no longer feasible.
Currently the club only pays about $2,000 per year in rent, but utilities cost it just over $40,000 for the year ending April 30. That figure is up $3,000 from the previous two years listed in the club’s financial statement.
The club only generates about $8,000 in advertising revenue, while receiving about $6,500 from the government in the form of grants. In fact, just 63 per cent of its revenue comes from curling — while more than a 25 per cent comes from liquor sales.
Weiss said he has notified the city that it can no longer afford to pay for the space, and is currently waiting to find out when both sides can meet.
“The lease is arduous for us. It killed us financially,” he said.
City councillor Valerie Warmington, who is also chair of the regional recreation commission, said club’s struggles are on the city’s radar.
“We’re absolutely open to working with them to see what works for them, but it also has to work for the taxpayers of the city as well,” she said.
The club had hoped to find funding for the construction of a concrete floor, which would allow it to host events during the five months of the year it is closed for the off-season. Weiss previously estimated the project would cost $250,000.
But he said those plans are now on hold following the release of a report by the Nelson and District Recreation Facilities Task Force in October, which made 26 recommendations to the city and Regional District of Central Kootenay regarding the future of the downtown sports complex campus that includes the curling rink.
“Because the task force is looking at redevelopment for the whole campus, that could be part of the redevelopment,” said Weiss. “So it doesn’t really serve us to think about it until we know what the task force and the city are going to do and what their plans are.”
Curling has a long history in Nelson. The sport’s first club opened in 1898 and the Midsummer Bonspiel, which ran from 1945 to 2008, was once a major tourist attraction. The club hosted the provincial men’s tournament in February 2016, although even that didn’t keep the club from finishing the same financial year with a $23,000 deficit.
Weiss said the onus is on the city to move forward with the recommendations that were made, and to make the facility work for the curling club in order to ensure its future. One solution, he said, exists in Creston where the local curling club rents ice in a building owned by the RDCK.
A similar rental agreement, he said, would make the club’s financial situation far more tenable.
“It really hinges on the city — the city needs to make a decision. These buildings are owned by the city,” said Weiss.
“Manage us. Make this facility work financially for us. Don’t tax us, don’t give us big lease agreements. All of these organizations bring people to our city. Spend some money. Put some big buildings in here. Turn it into a modern facility as opposed to a rotten old one.”