The Quesnel Curling Centre (QCC) has had a terrible start to its season.
A catastrophic failure of its ice plant has left the QCC unable to install the ice required to start the season.
The cost to replace the plant is $200,000.
Ordinarily, the club would be open by the middle of October, so they have already missed one bonspiel (curling tournament) and are in danger of missing a second, their annual Grey Cup Cash Spiel, which is scheduled for the end of November.
The club has almost 300 members who actively use the facility for the activities and the social aspect. All are anxiously awaiting a solution.
“We’ve been working with this equipment for the past 50 years and obviously it’s past its time,” says QCC manager Dave Plant. “Every start-up to the season, we go back there and we cross our fingers and hope, but we’ve always known in the back of our mind that this day is probably coming sooner than later.”
The ice in a curling rink is made in a similar fashion to the ice in skating rinks.
There is a large refrigeration unit that chills a brine solution, which is then piped under the ice surface to allow the water to freeze. The staff ran into problems this year at start up due to the oil in the compressor being contaminated by the brine solution.
Regular maintenance is done on the ice plant every year, and a major overhaul was done just six years ago.
While they have kept the ice plant going with temporary fixes for many years, the equipment is at its end-of-life point.
In an attempt to get the centre up and running this season, they are trying one more temporary fix.
Plant feels if these repairs work, there is a chance the centre can be up and running by the middle of November. However, these temporary repairs come at a significant cost, and rather than spending a significant amount of money on unreliable temporary fixes, the club believes the ice plant needs to be replaced.
Technology and equipment have changed dramatically since the existing plant was installed in 1966.
It was purchased used at that time but has still provided a good curling surface for the community for the past 53 years. The QCC — which owns the centre — has a strong membership that has successfully built and operated the centre for years; however, the cost of these large-ticket projects is beyond the ability of the not-for-profit organization to manage, and they need help.
QCC’s operating costs are funded by the dues paid by the members, as well as the profit made from bonspiels and other events held at the centre. A small portion of funding for their Youth and Special Olympics programs is provided by the Province of B.C. Community Gaming Grant. This combined funding is sufficient to run the day-to-day operations and pay staff; however, whenever major renovations or repairs are required, they have to look for support outside of the membership.
In the past, the City of Quesnel, the Cariboo Regional District, the Quesnel Community Foundation, the Rotary Club of Quesnel, the Quesnel Lion’s Club, Community Futures North Cariboo, Northern Development Initiatives Trust, the Rick Hansen Foundation, and donations from generous citizens of Quesnel have all helped keep the QCC up and running.
The most recent project in progress is the installation of a two-person lift, which will make the centre accessible for all of its members and the general public.
Many might ask why a “rainy day” fund is not set up for the failure of the ice maker.
Plant says the club started a 10-year business plan five years ago, and they identified three major capital improvements: the ice plant, the centre’s roof and the floor.
“The roof is a flat roof and it’s tar and gravel; it’s 30 years old and we prioritized it for funding. In retrospect, we should have put our compressor room first and our roof next, but we knew that even though the roof isn’t currently leaking, its due date is coming,” he says.
“Both of these costs are around the $200,000 mark, so even though the curling centre has roughly $80K set aside for capital improvements, the costs to these major improvements are well over that. As a small club, we’ve been doing our due diligence and trying to put away money, but that is a major sum of money for us.”
For many, the curling centre is an integral part of life in Quesnel.
The centre provides winter programming for everyone: men, women, seniors, youth, and Special Olympics athletes.
“One of the things we’ve done with Special Olympics is we offer them free ice time,” says Plant. “We do not charge the Special Olympics to come, and to my knowledge, we’re the only group in the community that offers free services to them.
“And you can tell by the banners on our walls that they’ve been very successful over the past 15 to 20 years thanks to those free services,” Plant adds.
“It has a lot to do with the instructors that help them and the athletes having access to a facility that isn’t a financial burden to them.”
The club also has an elementary school program that provides affordable curling lessons to 350 students per year.
Curling centres and skating rinks are historically the “coffee shops” of communities, where people gather to participate in sport and socialize during the northern winters. Having these facilities is a huge benefit for any community as they help to provide activity and reduce social isolation that can occur during the winter months.
This is particularly noteworthy when it comes to the senior community.
“They don’t have a lot of winter activities that they’re able to do, and over the past five years or 10 years or so, the QCC has developed delivery aids that help them get into the hacks so they can still play the game and not have their body take such wear and tear,” says Plant.
“Our senior club is extremely active. They play twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have anywhere between 10 and 12 teams on both draws and they look forward to the curling season as it is their chance to get out and get some exercise during winter.”
The B.C. Curling Association has partnered with the B.C. Amateur Sport Fund to raise funds to benefit the Quesnel Curling Centre Capital Upgrades Project.
The B.C. Amateur Sport Fund is the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Council of Provincial and Territorial Sport Federations, a Registered Canadian Amateur Athletics Association with charitable status.
A donation to the Fund to benefit this project will allow the QCC to purchase much-needed capital upgrades and help them continue to develop curling in B.C. and provide opportunity for their curlers to compete on a national level.
Donations made to the B.C. Amateur Sport Fund to benefit the Quesnel Curling Centre’s project are eligible for tax receipts.
To donate online, go to support.bcamateursportfund.org/P0386.
To donate by cheque, make cheques payable to B.C. Amateur Sport Fund, complete a donor declaration form, and mail it to The Quesnel Curling Centre, Box 4041, Quesnel, B.C., V2J 3J2 or B.C. Amateur Sport Fund.
The donor declaration form can be found on the QCC website at quesnelcurlingclub.com.