The Whitehorse Curling Club could be closer to signing a lease with the city.
A proposed nine-year lease to let the club rent space from Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre passed first and second reading Monday night.
But it hasn’t been a simple process.
The curling club is concerned the lease is too expensive. The city wants to recoup half of the costs on spaces it rents to different organizations. The curling club uses over half the space at Mount McIntyre, but only has 300 members. It’s making less from bingo and bar sales, so has had a deficit of around $20,000 for the last couple years, president Mark Evans told city council last week.
The club had similar concerns last year, when a 10-year lease was proposed. After a summer of delays, the city negotiated a one-year lease that charged the club $35,000 for its space at the centre and included 40 free hours in the Grey Mountain room. The purpose was to give the city and the curlers more time to find a better lease. But not much has changed, the curling club says. This proposed nine-year lease, to begin this September, would see rent rise to $37,162 in the first year. In the last year, rent would be $56,022. The 40 free annual hours in the Grey Mountain room would remain.
“I’m not asking you to sign a blank cheque,” curler Bob Walker told city council on Monday night. But if costs continue to rise, curling won’t be affordable for families anymore, he said. People of all ages enjoy the sport, and the club hosts events in the winter, when less tourists visit, he said. “What is needed here is a fair balance,” said Walker.
His concerns didn’t fall on completely deaf ears. Coun. Kirk Cameron voted against the lease. He proposed waiting a year to sign a long-term lease with the club. It may not be reasonable to ask the club to pay back half the costs, and the city needs to review how it gives out money to organizations, Cameron said.
“We’re hit with a perfect storm” of groups asking for money, he said. Some of them are cultural groups, like museums. Others are sporting groups, like the curlers, while still others serve the needy. The city needs to clarify its policies with a forthcoming review before it makes any big commitments, said Cameron.
But the curling club may sign the lease before this review is complete. The club’s board has recommended the members accept it, Evans said on Tuesday. The lease isn’t ideal, but the club needs to focus on other things, like raising money, he said. The board will present the lease to the members at a meeting this week. He suspects it will cause a lot of discussion, he said.
“Members are really torn,” said Evans. If the club accepts the lease, it will cost more to curl. But if the club doesn’t sign the lease, there won’t be a place to curl this season. Members want the club to succeed, but “not at any cost,” he said.
He liked Cameron’s suggestion to defer, and was hoping it would be accepted, said Evans. But he had some questions about another councillor’s suggestion to help the club.
Coun. Dave Stockdale agreed the lease needs to be signed. But he has an idea to help the club raise money. “I could almost pay your increase this year,” he said. “I will give (the curling club) permission to charge me $1,000 for the use of the ice for the Polar Games,” he said. Stockdale, who is an organizer of the event, said he would then charge kids more or ask the government for more money.
The curling club would have to see if Stockdale was serious before accepting this offer, said Evans.
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