Just one more season for curling rink; fundraising underway for new six-sheet facility

It’s official. Sylvan Lake’s curling rink, which has served the community for 63 years, will be closed

It’s official. Sylvan Lake’s curling rink, which has served the community for 63 years, will be closed at the end of the next season and demolished.

That’s the portion of the building which houses the actual ice surface.

The front end of the building which includes the viewing area, lockers, washrooms and offices on the main floor and kitchen, washrooms and lounge area on the second floor will be preserved for the present.

The executive of Sylvan Lake Curling Club announced that as of March 31, 2014, the facility that’s probably the oldest recreation complex in town, will be closed as it’s reached the end of its life.

“The building is terminal,” said President Greg Smith. “The life of the building is done,” added Lorie Johanson. “It’s either replace it or curling in this town is done.”

Replace it is the plan. They’ve been working with the town to move forward. Town council has approved $1.5 million towards a refurbished curling facility, establishing a partnership between the curling club and the town.

“This was a wonderful kick start to our fundraising,” said Smith.

“However, we are looking to the future; yes this is a challenge but one which the Sylvan Lake Curling Club building committee has taken on with their eyes wide open. This is not a new venture for the curling club. They did it in 1928 and again in 1950.”

Their goal is to raise an additional $2.2 million by the end of November.

That would allow them to completely replace the current structure.

Their main priority is to get the rink portion replaced next summer then, depending on their fundraising efforts, they can address the front portion in a phased approach.

“The most important part is we get the ice covered and six sheets then we can go from there,” said Walsh.

He added that “with the much appreciated guidance provided by Ron Lebsack”, the town’s director of leisure and protective services, they have just entered the ‘Tender for Design’ stage.

“We are pretty close to enough money to put a new shed on the back with six sheets,” Walsh said. A request for proposal for architecture services for the curling rink is already posted on the club’s website. The closing date is Apr. 30 then the building committee can make a decision and will have something more concrete to show club members and the public.

Their hope would be to begin construction at the end of the next winter season and be ready a few months later for the 2014-15 winter season.

Committee members have already been busy applying for grants and sponsorships. They have a sponsorship package available and are distributing it to local businesses and industries.

Those who haven’t been approached yet but who would like information may contact John Walsh at 403-887-8816 or curling club manager Joel Powlesland at 403-887-7760.

Committee members stressed this is not just a curling facility. It’s used year-round. Johanson said it’s lounge area has been used for receptions, birthday parties and small weddings. “It fills a gap,” she said, indicating it’s a small facility in the middle of other facilities with the town’s community centre catering to larger groups while several other buildings accommodate smaller meetings and events.

Already for this summer, the club has booked t-ball, golf and volleyball events. A quilt show takes place there during 1913 Days and the hockey camp rents part of the facility during July and August. The Red Deer Royals have also used it for practice.

Due to Sylvan’s central location and hospitality, the club has recently been approached to host curling training courses and provide pre-season training facilities for overseas teams. “We are actively researching these options.”

Club members, in determining the need for six sheets to replace their current five sheets, said curling is growing worldwide.

It’s getting more and more exposure on TV.

The club will be hosting the Alberta Scotties women’s championship in January for the second time in four years. The event will take place in the multiplex but the curling rink will also be used to host visitors.

“Of all the towns in Alberta that have curling, we got it for the second time in four years,” said Smith.

They hosted the provincial juvenile championships last month.

Walsh added that in the last five years school programs have exploded.

The past season saw 654 students from elementary and secondary schools curling as part of their physical education courses.

Curling transcends all ages. Johanson said it goes from age seven all the way through junior, to high school and college. “You can go to whatever level you chose to.” Her children are the third generation of curlers playing from the local club.

“It’s a reasonably priced sport,” added Joyce Thrush.

During the last season there were almost 1,000 weekly users of the curling club. Senior curlers averaged 80, the majority of whom curled three times a week — a great workout, said Walsh.

Some 20 non-curling ‘senior’ seniors regularly stop for coffee and are most welcome.

In order for snowbirds to play, the senior season is divided into two ten week draws. This allows them to curl up to Christmas then head south for the rest of the winter.

Daytime and evening leagues operate every day during the winter season to meet all users’ level of play and interest.

The club’s aim is to continue its established programs while developing wheel chair curling and upgrading the accessibility of the viewing area and club facilities by installing an elevator.

“Please become part of the Town of Sylvan Lake’s heritage,” encouraged the building committee. You can become a ‘Friend of Curling’ by buying a brick and having your name placed on the ‘Dedication Wall’. Or, why not become one of the first to join the $1,000 club on the ‘Dedication Wall’. There are many other sponsorship options you may wish to consider. Contact slcc1928@shaw.ca.

Tax receipts are available for donations.

“We do ask for the community’s support; curling has had its roots firmly set in Sylvan Lake since 1928. We are now planning for the next 100 years,” wrote Smith.