The recent carte blanche endorsement by the Cochrane’s Curling Club board of directors for the probable expenditure of up to $10 million for a new curling rink warrants a rebuttal since members of the curling club were not consulted through a member survey or through a special meeting to formally endorse a facility, which has escalated significantly from original estimates.
Secondly, any endorsement of a new six-sheet curling rink is de facto approving the expenditure of $45 million for the entire sports complex. This is also a serious concern and oversight.
As long time curler, Keith Boothe has correctly stated in his recent letter to the editor, our current four-sheet curling rink is grossly underutilized at approximately 65 per cent capacity. Under these circumstances how can any person or group make a credible business case for a new $10 million six-sheet curling rink that might operate at 50 per cent capacity and likely incur a significant operating loss born by 97 per cent of Cochrane residents who do not curl?
I have been an active curler in three different provinces for nearly 58 years and I would like nothing better, as a 15 year resident of Cochrane, to someday curl in a new modern curling rink in this community, but lets be realistic and consider the cold hard facts. Curling, as a sport, is not growing, regardless of the spin presented to the uninformed public by some members of council and certain members of the Curling Club board. For example lets look at the Calgary curling landscape...over the last 30 years we have seen the closure of three major curling club facilities, namely the Big Four Complex (48 sheets), the Westwinds Curling Club (six sheets) and most recently the Ogden/Legion Curling Complex (six sheets)...all occurring with no new rink capacity added and a near doubling of Calgary’s population. That’s hardly a growth story in my opinion. It’s also important as we consider required future curling rink capacity that we already have close access to a modern six sheet curling rink in Springbank.
As for the expenditure of $35 million for a gold-plated aquatic centre, there are many unanswered questions as to its viability and the projected operating loss, which once again will be born by taxpayers, many of whom never use the existing pool. I will, however, admit there is a more compelling business case for the eventual replacement of our existing pool given population growth and growing utilization by young families. Perhaps a scaled down $20 million pool with just the basics would be far more acceptable and much more doable financially.
I’m afraid certain members of the town administration, most members of town council and most recently the Curling Club’s board of directors have jumped on a $45 million bandwagon without really knowing where the wagon is headed and without full and comprehensive examination of detailed financial analysis regarding the long-term viability of either the proposed curling rink or the aquatic centre.
In this regard, I have to commend councillor Morgan Nagel who had the foresight to draw a line in the sand by refusing to support the gold-plated sports complex until he is satisfied that all the facts are on the table and how this proposal fits in with the town’s overall 10 year development plan.
Lets remember this is the largest capital project ever undertaken in our community...our duly elected representatives have a fiduciary duty to take the necessary time and due diligence to ensure taxpayer dollars are expended with utmost care and consideration.
We will all be watching and scrutinizing their decisions with a very high level of interest in the coming weeks.