New lease, old concerns for curling club

The Whitehorse Curling Club is expressing familiar concerns about its proposed new lease with the city: it's just too expensive. The club rents space from the city's Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre.

The Whitehorse Curling Club is expressing familiar concerns about its proposed new lease with the city: it’s just too expensive.

The club rents space from the city’s Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre. Rent is determined by the amount of space the club uses. The city wants to recoup half of the costs on facilities it rents to user groups.

But “one size doesn’t fit all,” Mark Evans, the curling club president, told city council Tuesday night. The club only has 300 members, but uses just over half of the facility. The club rents about 2,000 square metres just for ice, he said. It has discussed renting less ice space, but it wasn’t worth it, he said. The club also uses the centre’s lounge.

And while membership remains stable, revenues are down. For the second year in a row, the club’s running a deficit of around $20,000, Evans said Tuesday. Traditional revenue sources are dropping, he said. “People aren’t playing bingo as much or drinking as much,” Evans told council.

“The burden this lease imposes is not going to make things easier,” he said.

Last year, after a summer of delays, the city negotiated a temporary one-year lease with the club. Originally, the city wanted the club to sign a 10-year agreement. During that time, rent would rise a total of 113 per cent, from $30,000 in the first year to $63,929 in the final year.

The curlers protested. In the end, the city negotiated a one-year lease at $35,000. The club was also given 40 free hours in the Grey Mountain room. The club wanted more time to figure out a longer-term arrangement.

But “not much has changed” in the past year, said Evans. This new lease runs for nine years, beginning this September and ending in 2022. In the first year, rent would be $37,162. That cost would rise to $56,022 in the final year. The 40 free annual hours in the Grey Mountain room remain.

The club is prepared to sign a lease with the city, as long as the terms of the lease are reasonable, said Evans. If the club does agree to this new arrangement, it would do so with great caution, he said.

If the membership decides it doesn’t want the board to sign the lease, there could be no curling this season, said Evans.

Raising more money is the board’s top concern, said Evans. It’s working on new initiatives, like raffles. But if revenue continues to drop, it may not even be around when the proposed lease expires.

“In a few years, the Whitehorse Curling Club could be back before you to appeal for support or declare bankruptcy,” said Evans. “I truly don’t believe the city wants this to happen any more than we do.”

City council will vote on whether or not bring the lease forward under the bylaw process next week.

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