In January of 1964, the Campbell River and District Winter Club opened its doors to the public.
After selling 300 memberships for $100 each for seed money, the club was built for approximately $75,000, and it’s still one of the few “member owned and operated” facilities of its kind in the province.
“The municipality isn’t set up to do this as part of the sports regimen in town, I guess,” says Larry Taylor, President of the club. “Curling started before any of the ice rinks or anything like that, and curling has always been a very social sport. It started as a gathering place more than a curling rink.”
But being owned and run by its members brings a few benefits along with it.
“What it does,” says club manager Susan Johnson, “is it enables us to keep costs down. We don’t answer to the municipality, we answer to ourselves. We can keep things affordable. Not only the curling, but for renting our facility, the things we sell, the bar prices. Nobody dictates those prices to us.”
“Instead of it being a city recreational facility, although it’s still public, it really is a family-like community in this building. It keeps this club going,” Johnson says.
But the curling demographic is aging. Like any sport, curling is something you can’t do forever (despite the fact that the club has one member who is 90 years old), and volunteerism isn’t as present in the younger generation, according to Taylor, so it’s a problem finding people to backfill the service gaps.
But they’ve gotten good at adjusting to things. like the kinds of people taking up the sport, for example.
“For many years it was very much like a men’s club,” says Johnson. “We had so many nights of men’s competitive curling, but now we’re seeing more couples wanting to curl and more social curlers. We have to keep adapting and changing with what people want. Now we can’t fill men’s league three nights a week, but we can do mixed curling or social curling or novice curling more often.”
“Basically,” says Taylor, “We have to see where the demand is before we can know how to fill it. We have to be flexible.”
Thankfully, and possibly due to their flexibility, membership is up at the club.
“We have 21 draws a week,” says Johnson, “and for a small club in a small community, with only four sheets of ice, that’s a very active club. There are clubs much larger than us that have, on average, 14 to 17 draws per week, so for us to have 21, we’re very fortunate.”
They also have a junior program for kids as young as seven, a full rental facility where they can host events of all kinds for up to 250 people (though Johnson admits that would be a bit of a tight fit), and a full-service pro shop to cater to curlers’ needs, as there’s no other curling shop in the area.
Curling in Campbell River costs about $7/hour.
“You pay for a whole season,” Johnson said, “but when you break it down, and it depends on what league you’re in, and how many games are in that season, and how many ends are in each game, but it comes out to about $7/hour.”
“When you think about it, it’s one of the cheapest sports,” Taylor said. “Once you buy your equipment, you know, other than if your feet size changes, you’ve got it.”
“Our junior program, for one day a week, it’s $75,” Johnson says. “It’s pretty tough to beat that.”
Considering the season runs from Oct. 1 to “near the end of March,” according to Johnson, you get a lot of curling for your investment, as well.
If you’re not interested in joining a league, but would like to try the sport, maybe get some people together for a “Funspiel,” where your office or other group could book any combination of dinner, curling, dancing, bar service, darts and billiards.
They also run free clinics once or twice a year, where the public is invited to come and try the sport.
Johnson and Taylor would also like to remind the public that the lounge facility upstairs is open to the public in the evenings from Monday to Friday, so if you’re looking for a place to have a few drinks, play some pool, and throw some darts (new dart boards just put in this year, and the pool table has just been resurfaced), keep the Curling Club in mind.