Curlers see early end to season; Kaslo Arena may shut down early

·4 min read

Curlers in Nakusp are calling it quits and minor hockey players in Kaslo may face an early end to their season as arena managers in that community face mounting budget deficits.

The Nakusp Curling Club announced last week they were ending their season early as a result of a ban on adult group sports announced by the provincial health officer. And the Kaslo Arena board is considering closing the facility a month early because of the same COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, which will reduce revenues.

Soon after Nakusp curlers announced they were folding for the season, the Village announced it was going to pull the ice from that section of the sports complex. The main ice will be kept in until the usual end of the season, in March.

Unlike Kaslo, it’s not directly tied to a funding squeeze from the loss of participants, says Nakusp Chief Financial Officer Mark Tennant.

“The deficit for the curling rink in 2020 is minimal – approximately $4,800, which is actually slightly less than what we budgeted for,” he told the Valley Voice. “This will impact us more so in 2021 and fortunately we will be able to account for that in the budget since it is so early in the year.”

However, with no curlers, the Village was wasting money and energy keeping the rinks in. The Village receives about $10,000 from the curling club each year, a small fraction of the $410,000 it receives annually from the RDCK to operate the facility.

Kaslo youth leagues cut?

Meanwhile, the future’s not so clear yet for Kaslo Minor Hockey players. The volunteer board there will decide in early February if it should try to keep the season alive.

“We’ll do our best to keep going, and hope for the next month people abide by the rules so we can go back to the way we were operating earlier in the season,” says Molly Leathwood, who sits as the council representative on the Kaslo and District Arena Association.

The Kaslo Arena gets $50,000 to operate annually from the Regional District of Central Kootenay, but that only covers a portion of the building’s $120,000 budget. The rest of it is covered by fees charged to user groups – especially adult users – for the facility.

“We opened the arena up a little late to all the user groups, with restrictions in place, and it was going pretty good,” says Leathwood. “Then the restrictions were put in place on adult sports.”

Since those orders came down, the arena association has done everything it can to keep the facility open for at least the youngest players. And she says minor hockey organizers have done an excellent job of making sure players and coaches are following public health protocols. But with most of its revenue gone from adult users, the arena just can’t afford to remain open.

“We just want to make sure that when the end of the season comes we’re not in a deficit,” she said.

With the next RDCK grant not coming until September, the association faces a budget crunch.

“Our expenses are pretty high in winter months because of power. We pay an average of $5,000 a month for power. But all of our income from minor hockey is less than $1,000,” she says.

The association has decided to keep the arena open until February 5, Leathwood reports, when the Province decides whether they’ll extend the restrictions or allow adult sports again.

“If we can open it up again for adult users and get through the season, then we would definitely keep it going. But if they don’t ease up on the restrictions, and it’s only youth hockey, then it’s hard to justify staying open and operating with that much of a deficit.”

RDCK closes facilities

The news comes as the regional government also struggles with its budget. Earlier this month, the Regional District of Central Kootenay announced it was closing two of its five ice sheets to cut costs. The Pioneer Arena in Castlegar and the Nelson Civic Centre will be closed after the adult sport restrictions cut the RDCK’s revenues by $118,000 this fall.

“Decisions like this, although difficult, are important to ensure that the cost of our recreation services are balanced between user fees and taxation,” said Joe Chirico, the manager of community services for the regional government.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice