For the first time in more than a century, no curling will be played this season in Nelson.
Nelson Curling Club president Kristina Little says the decision has been made to abandon play through next spring after the non-profit organization was unable to fundraise critical and expensive repairs to its ice plant.
That money could still arrive if two grant applications are successful, but not in time to save the 127-year-old club’s season. With the exception of brief shut downs in 2019 when ammonia leaked from the ice plant as well as during the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be the first time an entire season has been lost at the Nelson rink.
Little said it was heartbreaking to make the announcement to the club’s members, many of whom have thrown stones on the ice for decades.
“That place is like my second home, and I know a lot of other members feel that way,” she said. “It’s a club too. You spend so much time there. They’re your friends, your family. It’s not just a sport, it’s their social place. It’s going to be hard for a lot of our members, especially the older ones.”
The ice plant requires a new condenser, compressor and brine pump, which Little said in February had an estimated cost of $422,000. The ice plant could operate for the time being with just a replaced condenser, but that costs $200,000. The City of Nelson, Little says, has ordered the condenser be replaced before the club operates again.
The club has raised $50,000 in the last eight months, and Little said businesses and individuals have also committed to donations. But it still falls short of what is needed.
“If one of these grants come in, we’re going to be OK. But if neither of the grants come in, then I don’t know what’s going to happen. We can keep applying for these grants year after year, but it’s a year turnaround on these big grants. I don’t know what’s going to happen if we don’t get one of them.”
Losing the season comes only two months after the Nelson Curling Club won a provincial honour from Curl BC for innovation with the hiring of a full-time general manager.
But the facility at 302 Cedar St. has had question marks about its ice plant for years.
The refrigeration system is the same one that has been in use since the building opened in 1973, and has only received patchwork repairs. That was underscored in 2019 when two ammonia leaks forced the rink to temporarily close.
Little said the club has not received any financial assistance to pay for the condenser from the City of Nelson, which has owned the building since 1994. The club has also operated without a lease since 2014, despite repeated requests to the city for a new agreement.
Little said members were told at the beginning of August that the fall season would be lost. A month later that was changed to include the season through next spring as well.
In the meantime, Little said some members will make the trip to Castlegar’s rink. But transportation isn’t an option for everyone, and that rink isn’t the place they consider home.
“It’s not the same,” she said.