The decision to replace the Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre curling rink with dry floor — a decision that left local curlers upset — will help taxpayers in West Shore communities get good value for their money, according to West Shore Parks & Recreation.
Jonathan Huggett, project consultant for West Shore Parks & Recreation, said towards the end of last year the organization’s board of directors went through the JDF Recreation Centre’s budget. The board found that curling was no longer providing a good value for taxpayer money.
“The taxpayers from five municipalities subsidize that whole facility to the tune of about $5 million per year,” Huggett said. “It costs the facility about $11 every time a person goes in to play curling, compare that with about $2 for somebody going to the swimming pool.”
Huggett said the rink was also only booked for about 20 per cent of the time and was often empty during the day. He said the lounge — which the board plans to use for child care space in the future — was not used for events often enough either.
Huggett also noted that while there are a few hundred individuals using the curling rink, there are other facilities in Greater Victoria that can still be used.
The curling club has about 500 members. Huggett said about 139,000 people visited the aquatic facility last year.
“The other important thing is that there’s a finite amount of money and we want to use that to the best advantage to as many people as possible,” Huggett said. “There are some activities growing in interest like pickleball and Zumba and there’s a significant amount of interest in child care because of younger families coming here.”
The Juan de Fuca (JDF) Curling Association says it was not consulted prior to the West Shore Parks & Recreation board’s decision to close the rink.
“We were told it’s going to take effect immediately. It was surreal, shocking….the day after, I’m still reeling,” said Pei Mei Chia, JDF Curling Association president. “We were not given any notice, period.”
However, Huggett said he does not believe a public consultation would have made much of a difference because the bottom line, according to him, is that many other people in the community need that space for other activities.
“There would never be a good time to tell somebody you’re taking away one of their assets,” Huggett said. “No matter how you do it, it’s bad news.”
Huggett also noted that when it comes to recreation trends, many other activities are becoming popular while curling is decreasing in popularity. He said the West Shore Parks & Recreation board is looking for ways to accommodate those new trends by considering dry floor space for the area where the rink is or installing indoor turf.
“The whole recreation market is changing by the minute,” Huggett said. “You can’t just stay with the old ideas.”