B.C. curling clubs seek funding to cover declining revenues

·3 min read

Curling clubs are as much about socializing as they are about sport for many communities in British Columbia.

However, as the number of COVID-19 cases has risen this fall, curlers have been dropping their memberships, despite protocols clubs have in place to stop the spread of the disease.

That's putting a financial strain on curling clubs, which — like many organizations — are searching for ways to get through the pandemic despite declining revenues.

"Our membership fees are down because we only have 70 per cent of our members back," said Bob Genoway, general manager of the Salmon Arm Curling Centre.

"And then costs to operate in COVID are substantial. To follow protocols and to try and keep our people as safe as we possibly can, there is a certain cost to that."

provided by Salmon Arm Curling Centre
provided by Salmon Arm Curling Centre

The curling club used to have bonspiels with out-of-town curlers coming to town to play, but that is off the table this year, as is hosting other events like Christmas parties, said Genoway.

"We rely on those kind of events to bring in 30 to 40 per cent of our revenue."

This week the curling club approached Salmon Arm city council about financial help as the city is going through its budget deliberations for next year.

Genoway said the non-profit curling club is hoping to stay afloat financially so it can continue to operate once the pandemic is over and people flock back to social activities like curling.

"We are quite successful as a group in normal situations and in normal years, but this isn't normal. So we are looking for help, as I am sure a number of groups are," he said.

Curling memberships at 80 per cent of last year

Of the 87 curling clubs in B.C. only five have not reopened since the pandemic hit, according to Curl B.C. CEO Scott Braley.

The Kamloops Curling Club is one of the clubs that has not reopened, with the club deciding it was too risky financially to attempt to open this season.

Of the clubs that are open, an average 80 per cent of their membership has returned to curl this fall, Braley said, adding some clubs have seen an increase in membership.

"People are looking for things to do," he said.

Social distancing protocols mean fewer people can sit in lounges at curling clubs, and that will hurt clubs' revenues.

"Having people in their bars is having an impact, for sure, but [the curling clubs] all seem to be fully functioning. It is amazing the number of people that have come together to make this work," Braley said.

There have been modifications to the sport — such as only having one person sweeping a rock and not allowing sweeping behind the tee-line — so curlers can adhere to physical distancing protocols.

For clubs that are struggling financially, Braley said Curl B.C. is encouraging clubs to apply for provincial and federal grants and subsidies available to sport and non-profit organizations during the pandemic.