Recognizing the keen interest of curling club members in the future of their sport in Sylvan Lake, councillors agreed to let them drive efforts for a new facility on the current site.
At their meeting Dec. 10, councillors unanimously passed a motion that the town provide $1.5 million for a new curling facility on the current site and that the Curling Rink Building Committee return to council with more detailed design and timelines.
During discussion about replacement of the current facility, Councillor Dale Plante said, “I feel we’ve got this backwards. Everything we’ve looked at is the town leading the curling rink project. I think there’s a lot of motivated people within the club. I feel we ought to be looking at investing in their taking the lead, perhaps we don’t want to be running a curling rink long term.”
He suggested the town partner with the curling club and support the capital costs for construction of a new facility.
“Why are we going ahead with design when the best design comes from the people that use it?” Plante questioned. “Why shouldn’t we just get behind it.”
One of the differences between the town proposed design and what curlers would like to see is the number of sheets of ice. The town initially suggested four sheets while the current club has five sheets and curlers would like six sheets.
Plante continued, “I think there’s a huge benefit to having a curling rink here. Why not look at the very best project we can do … I think we need to come up with something a lot more creative … Let them define what is a feasible project and then get behind it.”
“I’m concerned that we may have gone through a lot of work, come up with options, got buy-in from them,” said Mayor Susan Samson. “I’m not sure where we’d be if we went down the road you’re proposing.”
Earlier in the meeting she asked whether a request for a decision was premature since discussions with golf courses about their locations hadn’t been finalized.
“It’s not premature,” said Ron Lebsack, director of leisure and protective services. “In preliminary discussions we’ve talked about how this might work with two different established organizations coming together. It’s a real operational concern trying to mesh together.” He noted there has been interest from the golf courses but “when we talked with the curling group there hasn’t been interest from the operational side”.
Curling club representatives Matt Toonders and John Walsh were in the audience and asked about Plante’s suggestion.
“I agree with Councillor Plante’s discussion,” said Toonders. “Presently there are five sheets, we do want six. Central Alberta is increasing (in population), we need to expand, to bring the facility to bonspiel level.” He suggested they might look at Olympic standard.
“The curling club has some funds, a vested interest in all the equipment. Also there are members within the club who are part of the construction building industry,” Toonders said. “There’s a keen interest in the sport being viable.”
“We’re definitely willing to work within finite budgets,” he added. “We need to know where and when. We have had conversations that we could tear down in March and be ready in October so we don’t lose momentum of the sport.”
Toonders said the club will fundraise but asked that they hold the contract for the build.
“I’m not interested in writing a blank cheque and saying go away,” said Plante. “I want a partnership and we help. I’d like to see them driving the process.”
“A lot depends on the ability of the curling club to fundraise,” said Councillor Sean McIntyre. “It’s a little convoluted now with all the options on the table. What’s the capacity of our community to produce funds necessary to build a bigger facility?”
Following council’s motion, it’s now up the building committee to come back to council with more detail.