Manitoba curling clubs await return to play after season is put on ice

WINNIPEG — It’s not a Manitoba winter without curling, but due to the pandemic, the season was put on hold months ago.

When code red restrictions came into effect across the province in November, the Fort Garry Curling Club had to pause its season after only about two weeks of play.

“We started the season thinking we’re doing everything right. Social distancing, hand sanitizer, had the members wearing masks,” said Darren Needham, president of the club.

It’s a similar story across Manitoba with clubs patiently waiting to hear from the province on when they’ll be allowed to play again, but not all clubs can afford to wait. 

The Deer Lodge Curling Club made the decision to end its season after code red was extended.

“We were then in a position that we either had to close the doors to save money to open next year or risk closing the doors forever,” said Kris Keough, president of Deer Lodge Curling Club.

Curl Manitoba said a number of clubs have made the same choice with the hopes of a fall return.

Over at Fort Rouge Curling Club, while awaiting word from the province, the board came up with a plan to get revenue going virtually.

“We want the Fort Rouge to be around for another 100 years, so our board of directors got together and brainstormed for some ideas to come up with ways of raising money,” said Cameron Barth, president of Fort Rouge Curling Club.

“One way was the 50/50.” 

Barth said so far about $4,500 has been raised through the 50/50 with a cap at $10,000. 

Any cash raised will be of help because running a curling club isn’t cheap. Just to keep the ice in costs about $5,000 a month on top of regular expenses.

Curl Manitoba said it’s been trying to help clubs get funding during the pandemic to help with the costs. 

“Applying on their behalf to some of the federal support funding,” said Craig Baker, Curl Manitoba’s executive director. 

“I know the majority of our clubs made use of the provincial bridge grant, so that’s been great for them. They’re trying.”

Many clubs are hoping the province will allow the sport to resume and are planning for shortened seasons to accommodate.

“Curling is a social sport. It’s good for wellbeing, it’s for people to get out. I think a lot of people are missing that,” said Needham. “We can provide that, and we can provide it safely.”

The curling season typically goes until the end of March. Curl Manitoba said some clubs are looking at playing into April or May if the season gets approved soon.  

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