Over time, community sports organizations can become so ingrained in a town that we can take them for granted. The longer a particular club has existed, the more we expect it to always be around regardless of what happens.
It’s no surprise to anyone that curling is not as popular as it used to be. Around the country, there are fewer young people taking up the sport, and it feels more niche each year, save for every four years when it gets an Olympic boost.
To think that curling tournaments used to outdraw golf tournaments here in the Peace region is certainly mind boggling. However, curling is still a great game and a hallmark of Canadian communities.
As the Fort St. John Curling Club begins preparations for its 74th season (it opened in 1946), the thought that there could be no curling club in the near future is suddenly a very real threat.
The club made news last week when it released a survey to its members and alumni asking for input on how it can best operate going forward. The club is in financial trouble, and without an increase in membership and league fees, the executive doesn’t see how it can stay afloat. However, with a dwindling membership, that solution seems short term at best, and even then I’m not sure a lot of people would stick around for another season.
The club even put the decision to dissolve the club and give control of the building to the city as an option in its survey, which would leave the future of curling in Fort St. John up in the air. It’s not an over-reaction to think of a future with no Fort St. John Curling Club.
It’s an unfortunate situation with no easy solution, and no time to pass blame or think of what could have been. But a solution can be found. It will take the curling community coming together to find a way to move forward.
People in Fort St. John and the Peace Region still love curling and are pretty darn good at it. Though the club is hurt mightily by the lack of interest in a junior curling program, that’s not exactly an issue specific to Fort St. John.
More pertinent is the fact that many people just don’t curl with the local club anymore. They still curl, albeit maybe with clubs in other towns, or just a couple bonspiels throughout the year instead of a weekly league.
There are many real reasons the club is in this financial situation and has a low membership count. The Fort St. John Curling Club members went from 350 members to 185 in just four years — that can’t be a result of dying interest in the sport. Unfortunately, I don’t know them all, and may never fully understand. But there is still a curling club in Fort St. John right now. We haven’t lost it yet.
It won’t be easy, and will likely need an overhaul of its operating model and decision-making process to move forward and get back to where it once was, as recently as the 2016-17 season.
The club’s executive knows this. That’s why the survey has been put into place, and why board members are preparing for a long offseason of negotiating, debating, and decision making with both its membership and the city.
The club is asking for your input. Any feedback is good feedback. If you enjoy curling, and have ever played the game in the Peace region, consider what the club could do to get you on the ice next winter.
There are few things in sports more satisfying than throwing a takeout, and it would be a shame to lose that opportunity.
Dillon Giancola writes about sports in Fort St. John. Email him at email@example.com.