With no end in sight to the recreation restrictions enacted by the province in December, area curling clubs and ice arenas are calling an early end to the season.
In a news release posted to Facebook the evening of Jan. 26, president of the Bonnyville Curling Club Colin Hanusz announced the end of their season citing the need to “be financially prudent to ensure we can reopen next season.”
St. Paul Curling Club president Troy Bohn said their club reached the same decision on Monday night after contacting several other clubs in the area “to see what they were doing and what grants they had been able to apply for and if there were any options we were missing.”
“Some of them are a little bit different because they have more members in some of the bigger centers and they can keep things going for a little bit longer, but really it came down to a financial decision for us,” said Bohn.
According to Bohn, the Curling Club has a six-month lease with the Town of St. Paul for the facility. Between the costs of that lease, running the ice plant for the curling rink, and the wages of the technician who keeps it all going, their monthly expenses are approximately $9,500.
“A lot of our funding comes from casinos and we’ve been bumped twice because of the restrictions having the casinos closed down as well,” said Bohn.
While the club does charge fees to the roughly 135 members in its Super League, Open League, Seniors, Juniors, Junior High, and High School programs, Bohn said each league is managed a little differently and they need to meet with their league directors in the coming weeks to figure out what is to be done about membership fees and sponsorship fees from the 2020/2021 season.
“We’re definitely not in a position to give everyone their entry fees or their money back. But we’re just kind of waiting it out to see what some other curling rinks are doing and what we can do for our members,” said Bohn, noting they are discussing possible credits for next season.
The Bonnyville Curling Club plans to offer credits for league fees and advertising fees in the 2021/2022 season and according to the release, is “exploring the option of starting the 2021/2022 season a few months early to make up for the lost time this season.” They note the decision will be made in the fall and dependent on government restrictions at that time.
The Elk Point Curling Club shut down for the season when the restrictions were initially announced.
The CAP Arena in St. Paul is now closed for the season because of the ongoing government restrictions. “We’ve shut the ice plant off and we’re just leaving it right now,” said Town of St. Paul CAO Kim Heyman, noting that with the continuing cold weather the ice may stay in place for a while yet.
“Normally the arenas would go until March and then by the time they take those out we’re ready to get going for spring,” said Heyman.
According to Heyman, the town has laid off the three staff who work at the CAP but does plan to recall them in the spring when outdoor facilities like baseball diamonds and the golf course start opening up.
In an interview after the meeting, Mayor Maureen Miller said the town had brought it back to the rec board to discuss and been hoping for a different response from the provincial government.
“We were holding off until Jan. 21, when the government said that they would talk more about sports and how that’s going to look. And since they still didn’t open it up it’s making really slim pickings for the remainder of the year for those activities,” said Miller.
She said the Town has chosen to keep the Clancy Richard Arena open for now.
“If in fact, that can still run, we will just pack it up. Hopefully, we’ll just pack up any free time that’s in there that we’re able to work on,” said Miller.
She said the decision to close the CAP Arena for the season was a financial one for the town because it is very expensive to run. In a normal year, it would be busy with minor hockey and figure skating and open through March for provincials.
“We don’t take it lightly. But we also have to look at the greater picture of the tax money that we have and appropriately place it where we feel it’s doing its best,” said Miller.