Curling club gets reprieve

Whitehorse won't be raising the rent on the Whitehorse Curling Club, at least not yet. City council deferred a vote on the club's lease of the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre for another two weeks.

Whitehorse won’t be raising the rent on the Whitehorse Curling Club, at least not yet.

City council deferred a vote on the club’s lease of the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre for another two weeks.

It’s the second time that council has put off the vote. In June, council put off the vote for a month to give administration and the club time to work out a deal, but that didn’t happen.

“We have not had one face-to-face meeting,” said Mark Evans, president of the curling club.

The city is looking to raise the rent the club pays for the recreation centre by 113 per cent over the next 10 years, from $30,000 to $63,929 a year.

On top of rent, the club pays about $100,000 a year to maintain the ice surface at the recreation centre. The city pays for the rest of the building maintenance, but city officials want this to change.

Under a policy passed by council in the last year, the city set a goal to recoup 50 per cent of those costs, using a formula that sets the rent based on how much space a group uses.

Because the curling club uses 66 per cent of the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre, its costs are set to jump.

The Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club, on the other hand, which only uses 18 per cent of the centre, will see its lease rate drop by more than $2,000 in the first year.

While that policy may be well intentioned, the new rent formula is an undue hardship for community organizations like the curling club, said Mike Nugent, a member of the club.

“That can’t be to the good of the city or the community,” he said.

The curling club has more than $200,000 in reserves, but only a fraction – 17 per cent – is actually accessible, said Evans. The rest is tied up in assets like furniture, equipment and cash the club has to set aside to pay out as prizes.

With an $800,000 annual budget, the amount that the club has set aside in contingency funds is only about two months of its operating costs, said Evans.

“If we have to use that for rent, we’d be in trouble,” he said.

Coun. Dave Stockdale was persuaded by the business case that Evans laid out.

“That’s really probably not a lot of money,” he conceded.

The city has, in the past, given preferential treatment to groups like the Great Northern Ski Society and Softball Yukon because of the recreational opportunities they provide, said Coun. Betty Irwin.

“By playing hardball with the curling club, are we playing fair to all the sports organizations?” she asked.

Irwin put forward a motion to defer the vote on the lease agreement so the club would have another chance to negotiate with the city.

“It seems there hasn’t been what I’d call meaningful negotiations,” said Coun. Kirk Cameron.

Only Mayor Bev Buckway voted against the deferral motion.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

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