The Fernie Curling Club has been unable to curl all season due to a leaking flooring system. They hope to be back on the ice by early March after the installation of refrigeration mats. File photo

City of Fernie gets curlers back on the ice

City, Fernie Curling Club to share cost of $95,000 refrigeration mats to address leaks

Christmas has arrived early for Fernie curlers after the City accelerated a funding request that will get them back on the ice this season.

The Fernie Curling Club has been unable to curl due to a leaking flooring system at Fernie Memorial Arena following the installation of a new ice plant.

The City has poured more than $1 million into the beleaguered facility so far this year, but problems continue to arise.

The curling club executive and City staff have been in discussions since October when the leaks first appeared. They agreed that the most viable and cost effective solution is to buy portable brine lines, known as refrigeration mats.

About 30 members attended the club’s presentation to the Committee of the Whole on Monday morning before the matter was brought forward to the regular meeting that night.

The council heard the mats will cost about $95,000 plus $20,000 for modifications to the brine line header trench, with the club to contribute 10 per cent of the cost up to $10,000. The rest of the funding will come from the City’s reserves.

Councillor Kevin McIsaac raised concerns about the cost of the mats given the timeline. The mats will take at least a month to arrive then the work will have to go out to Request for Proposal before the contract returns to council for approval.

The rink is not expected to be ready until March at the earliest, which will give the club six weeks to curl before the season ends.

However, Director of Community Services Marta Proctor said the curlers are eager to get back on the ice, whatever the date, to maintain momentum following record signup for the 2018/19 season.

After much debate, councillors approved the club’s funding request, which was met with high fives between club members as they left council chambers.

Speaking to The Free Press, President Annie McFarlane said it felt like Christmas had come early.

“We honestly didn’t think that we were going to get to this point as soon as we just did,” she said.

“We thought we would hear something more in the new year, so we couldn’t be happier or more thrilled with the council’s decision and the help that we’ve received from the City. It’s been terrific.”

The not-for-profit organization will pay for the mats using revenue from drop in and rental fees it had originally reserved for polishing its rocks. However, the club is happy to contribute to the cost if it means getting back into its rink this season.

McFarlane said there has been huge interest in curling despite the year-long closure of the arena, with 148 signed up this season compared to 28 a decade ago.

“Even just to have those six weeks it gets us down on the ice, it’s able to work out any kinks that the mats may present, so that we can be up and running for a complete full season next year,” she said.

Monday’s decision comes as the City prepares a grant application to build a new multi-use community centre near the Aquatic Centre.

McFarlane understands a curling rink will be included and is very supportive of the initiative.

“Realistically, it’s not going to happen for a few years… meanwhile, we want to keep curling,” she said.

“This was an option that thankfully the City agreed to because otherwise we would have been on hold until the new facility and when you don’t know when that new facility is going to go in, we would lose our momentum and I don’t know what would have happened to the club.

“This is a win-win for us tonight, this is fantastic.”

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