Curling season is about to begin in dozens of Winnipeg clubs, but not the West Kildonan Curling Club. After nearly 100 years, the club is no more, citing financial reasons.
The club’s executive sent a letter to members in the spring that shutting down curling operations was the only option.
“It didn’t happen overnight, it’s a progressive thing. If you’d been curling there for 30 years, you’d see the number of evening curlers dwindling, and if you were on the financial side you’d see expenses and utility costs increasing,” explained former manager Denis Laliberte.
“We needed a budget increase of about $30,000 a year. What we were getting from a typical league, say 40 curlers curling once a week, would be about $4,000. It took a lot of curlers just to pay utility bills.”
Those that called the club home have found other clubs to curl at for the upcoming season. Laliberte posited that one reason for the decline in membership is something that is a trend in clubs across Canada: young people are not coming out in droves to try the game.
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“In our curling club above the viewing area, we had pictures of all our past presidents going back to 1918. I was one of them. None of our kids curl. You could look across that board and you wouldn’t be able to identify any of the children of the past presidents that were curling at our club,” Laliberte said.
“None of the kids to whom we provided coaching and weekend practice sessions were coming and eventually joining our leagues.”
When the executive started working on its 2017-18 budget, they realized that, unless they jacked the cost of ice rentals and league fees, they wouldn’t be able to make ends meet. A local businessman apparently expressed interest in taking over but found it to be too risky, pulling the plug on the last lifeline the club had.
“I spent the last 20 months or so, with a couple of other folks, trying to make a go of it. As long as continued to decline, it wasn’t going to make sense to continue. If we had, we would have run out of money,” Laliberte said. “We did what we did, we had to do it. I felt really bad about it, certainly got choked up about it a few times talking about it with the executive. But we couldn’t see what else we could do.”
Laliberte said the building has already been sold, with ownership changing hands at the start of August. Old equipment like rocks and tables have been sold off, mostly within Winnipeg but some rocks were sold to a club in Massachusetts.
As for the future of the building, Laliberte wouldn’t share the nature of the company that bought it, but is very confident that it will not be used for curling again.