DIDSBURY — The local curling club is almost ready to rock for the season.
The Didsbury Curling Club has for the past few weeks been preparing the ice, with league play set start on Monday, Dec. 6, said Julie Gregg, club spokesperson.
“We will be following the REP (Restrictions Exemption Program) currently established for public places,” Gregg told The Albertan last week by email in response to questions.
“All people entering the building must have proof of vaccination by way of a QR code or a negative COVID test, and masks are mandatory everywhere except on the ice during play."
The club’s registration night was held on Thursday, Nov. 25 and there was a good turnout, she said.
“People are keen to get back playing," she said.
Although the Sturling league’s numbers saw “a slight decline from previous years” of about a dozen curlers, that had less to do with vaccination requirements and COVID-related issues and was attributed more to other factors, she said.
“The Sturling league is primarily seniors and I believe we have a couple of members who are off due to injuries or other health related challenges," she said.
Although she was not immediately certain how the junior league was shaping up so far, Gregg said on Friday, Nov. 26, “Based on what we saw last night, the mixed and men’s leagues both look like the numbers are on par with other seasons.”
Club president Dave Fife said league numbers overall are not expected to be the same as last season since there will likely be fewer teams in both the mixed and men’s leagues.
Nevertheless, the club maintains a level of measured optimism heading into the 2020-21 season provided there are no further pandemic-related restrictions imposed moving forward, said Gregg.
“It might be a bit tight financially as our revenue is down due to lack of play last season and a late start this season,” she said.
“We feel we can make a go of it even if we go a little into the red. It's more important at this stage to open the leagues and get people back on the ice enjoying the game. That way, we are better set for a full season in 2022-23.”
Asked how the club is faring aside from the many hurdles presented by COVID and whether perhaps there are any upcoming projects on the docket such as improvements or repairs to the curling rink's building, Gregg said the budget is currently too tight to tackle any major work.
“Last season started on time but ended five weeks later. We had to refund league fees to our members; however, we still had bills to pay,” she said. “That leaves us without funds to take on any projects.”
But the club has applied for a number of government grants, with any approved funds to be allocated toward maintaining operations, she said.
“We might have a bit of cash to do some minor things around the viewing area, such as improved seating,” she said.
“But that is currently on the back burner. We are fortunate that there is nothing urgent needed at this time."
She added that there are no major priorities pending for the time being.
Providing additional background for context, Gregg said the club’s board had in August set a date for all of the leagues’ registration as well as the annual general meeting (AGM) on Oct. 5. Early registration had even been anticipated to happen on Sept. 18 at Showcase Didsbury.
But by Sept. 16, that was cancelled when the province was plunged back into mitigation mode as cases of COVID-19 at the time soared, placing a strain on the health-care system.
By extension, the club cancelled its Oct. 5 registration event, but nevertheless forged ahead with its AGM by videoconference on Zoom.
And with the mandates around public gatherings in places like restaurants and sports facilities put in place by Alberta Health Services, the club decided the usual November start to league play simply was not logistically feasible, she said.
“As a volunteer organization, we did not feel we could deal with scrutinizing all the people coming through the doors of the club and to be responsible for checking vaccination status. We decided to postpone the season with the hope of starting early January," she said.
But in October, the board met and brainstormed ideas to come up with a way to start curling before the new year, she said.
“We decided to poll our members and see how many would register and follow the current requirements of vaccinations,” she said, adding a survey questionnaire was sent to the members the club had email addresses for, with the others contacted by phone.
“The board had an emergency meeting and we found there were enough members who were fully vaccinated and wanted to curl.”
So, the club proceeded to coordinate with the Town of Didsbury to get the ice plant up and running so the ice technician to get the sheets ready to rock, she said, adding the club was in the end able to get the rink prepared one month earlier than previously anticipated.
“Making the decision to start or not start was likely the most difficult part of the season so far,” she said. “But it has turned out to be a good thing that we postponed our start up, and honestly, people are really ready to get going and eager to have the season underway."