The Juan de Fuca Curling Association is asking all mayors and councils on the West Shore as well as the West Shore Parks & Recreation board in the hopes that they can explore ways to keep the Juan de Fuca curling rink open.
“There was no consultation with the association or the club members in how its going to affect us as curlers with the closure of the club,” said Stephanie Cambrey, a director with the Juan de Fuca Curling Association. “There needs to be open communication, this is a taxpayer funded facility and they’re just shutting the doors.”
Last week, the West Shore Parks & Recreation board announced its decision to close the curling rink that has been used since 1975. The board plans to replace it with dry floor space, something that will be a better value for taxpayer money according to Jonathan Huggett, a project consultant for West Shore Parks & Recreation.
The curling association found out about the closure shortly after it finished hosting the Under 18 Provincial Curling Championships.
“We were asked by the teams, the actual players, to run the championship again next year and that is a huge compliment to us,” Cambrey said. “We would love to run events like that every year…we have the people and commitment in order to build the name back for our club.”
Cambrey said the curling club has coaches who have been in the Olympics, kids as young as eight years old who are just getting into the sport and some players in their 90s.
“What sport out there allows you to play from such a young age to such an elderly age?” Cambrey said.
Cambrey also noted that it is the only curling rink that offers eight sheets of ice in the Western Communities. The rink shutdown would bring the availability of ice from 22 to 14 sheets in the Greater Victoria area.
Huggett said curlers will still be able to use other rinks in the area, but Cambrey noted that for youths or seniors who can’t drive, getting to other rinks is very difficult. Huggett also noted that curling is declining in popularity but Cambrey disagrees. Cambrey said curling is one of the fastest-growing sports out there.
“They’re saying that it’s a dying sport,” Cambrey said. “But that’s not the case. It’s popular all over the world.”
Cambrey said the association has run into issues when it comes to ice maintenance by West Shore Parks & Recreation. She said the lack of maintenance is turning curlers away from the rink, but with proper care, more curlers would come back.
According to Cambrey, curlers have the option of paying $87 to book a two-hour time slot or they can use free practice ice on Sundays that is unprepared. She said most curlers only want to practice for about 30 minutes, so they use the unprepared ice that makes curling very difficult.
“In order to keep membership, in order to grow the sport, you have to have good ice,” Cambrey said. “And we’ve had a blind eye turned to us. They’ve ignored our concerns.”
Cambrey said the facility is making it difficult for the club to keep membership because of poor maintenance.
The letter sent to the municipalities and board says the current process of renting ice has West Shore Parks & Recreation staff creating new contracts on an individual basis for every league and sheet of ice.
The curling association is proposing to rent the facility from West Shore Parks & Recreation for agreed upon dates from September to March each year. The association “would be responsible for creating and maintaining the ice surface, booking all leagues, school events, practice ice, bonspiels, etc.”
“Our association believes there are feasible options that do not include a complete shut down,” the letter reads. “We hope you will be open to working with us on this going forward.”