Curling may be in trouble in some places, but it's thriving to hurry hard in Dawson Creek. The club operated at a profit last year (a net of $40,000 after removing capital expenses), despite losing the final two weeks of the season in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The club's high membership — at 325 it has the most members of any club in the Peace Region — and its ability to operate in the plus is why Dawson Creek Curling Club General Manager Jeff Ginter is undeterred by the fact that the club has lost $50,000 this year, mostly as a result of cancelled building-rentals due to the coronavirus.
"If we re-open by September 1, and if we can keep our membership at par, I'm hoping we can break even. But I'm being realistic, and we're already taking full advantage of the federal government subsidy programs," Ginter said.
The club's success isn't due to good luck, but by hard work and a commitment from the membership, staff, and the City of Dawson Creek to do what it takes. For example, Ginter used the money given to the club as a result of the 75% wage subsidy to keep a staff member on to re-do and re-paint all the walls in the building. He took advantage of a bad situation to do something that might not have been done otherwise.
Still, the health of the club is a result of its high membership. In 2014, the year the club missed a lot of time due to an ammonia leak, there was only 245 members, (still more than others in the area). Since then, membership continues to grow each year at a steady rate.
One reason it's done so is the club's ability to bring in new curlers and junior curlers. They had 85 kids try curling through the elementary school program last year, and hacked a lot of learn to curl and try curling events. Ginter said he and his staff take curlers from that program after four months (they start in September) and implement them in the club's weekly leagues for the second half of the season. This January, the Dawson Creek Curling Club was able to add six full teams — 24 curlers — to it's leagues and membership halfway through the year.
"We try to introduce people to curling in a way that's meaningful. There is a lot of benefit in continuing these programs and we intend to," Ginter said.
Of course, a successful 2020-21 season and a balanced budget depends heavily on the return of curling and the club's ability to hold some sort of season, something Ginter is confident in.
"We are working closely with both Curling Alberta and Curl BC, along with Curling Canada, to make sure curling is one of the safest recreational opportunities with respect to COVID-19. we have the advantage of being a non-contact sport, and we have the use of a lot of space to ensure social distancing," Ginter said.
While those details have yet to be ironed out and a start date still to be announced, Ginter is confident there will be curling in some shape or form this winer.
Ginter acknowledges there are no guarantees when it comes to this pandemic. However, no matter what happens, its a guarantee that everyone at the Dawson Creek Curling Club will put the work in and exhaust every option to make sure curling will continue to thrive in Dawson Creek for years to come.
Email sports writer Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.