T.O. curlers feel the heat

GEORGE KARRYS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Amid the euphoria of an incredibly successful Vancouver Winter Games and another popular Tim Hortons Brier, the city of Toronto got a big kick in its curling keister.

On March 11, the Sun ran a major feature on the city's curling scene, Melting Ice: GTA's curling crisis.

Nothing was sugar coated.

Seven clubs, totalling 70 sheets of ice, have shut down since 1980 with not a single new facility having been built since the 1970s.

The city of Toronto, which issued a major report in 2008 quantifying the problems (some 8,750 avid curlers have vanished), came under fire for doing nothing with that report.

Even the curling community took shrapnel. Administrators and boosters alike went on record about curling's weak volunteerism and the inherent cheapness of its participants. Club managers were blasted for laziness.

Earlier last week, a Sun cover story was on the changing demographic face of Toronto, in which white residents will in fact become the "visible minority" by the year 2031.

And how is curling promoting itself to the new, non-white, soon-to-be majority of citizens?

It isn't.

And there could be more facility trouble coming, too.

GTA golf and/or country clubs that boast curling facilities have always had a love-hate relationship with the Roaring Game.

Golfers resent the lower fees curlers pay, while the curlers point out that their activities keep the club alive during the winter months.

St. George's Golf and Country Club in Etobicoke has definitely paid its curling dues over the years.

Curling manager Bill Duck isn't one of those "lazy" administrators. His club is a regular host for all manner of outside events, including the weekly Toronto Men's Major League, as well as various regional, provincial and even national events.

But is it all about to come crashing down?

Rumours persist that management wants to drive curling away, and a new fee structure may do just that.

Each curling member will pay an average of $180 more in fees next year, but Duck denied this is an attempt to drive out curlers.

"Curling has been given a stamp of approval by our board of directors," Duck declared.

"We've transformed the curling membership from a seasonal, October to April level to a full, year-round deal. We want curlers to say they are members of St. George's who curl, instead of saying they're curlers at St. George's."

Duck ran through a list of advantages the new "full" curling members will enjoy, including voting rights. He also pointed out there have been numerous surveys and even a townhall meeting for the curlers, and everything is above board.

"We might lose a few seasonal members, and that's what happened at Scarborough Golf when they did this switch four or five years ago," Duck said. "They lost some members initially, but now they're doing great.

"I think we can squash rumours about the demise of curling at St. George's. The future is a whole lot brighter for us."

But will they stay, or will they go?

Yet another GTA curling club is facing an unknown future.

Broom bits

Sunday night's Brier final between Ontario and Alberta was a rematch of October's Grey Power World Cup of Curling championship at Mississauga's Hershey Centre. In that one, Glenn Howard stole a 6-4 win when Kevin Koe missed a tricky shot for the victory ... The Ford world women's championship gets underway March 20 in Swift Current, Sask. Canada's Jennifer Jones starts off against Sweden's Cissi Ostlund at 8pm ET on TSN.

GEORGE KARRYS IS: CURLINGURU.COM


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