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'I believe the club would have folded had we opened'

Squamish's Howe Sound Curling Club hopes pre-emptive closure allows for 2021-22 rebound.
As the Howe Sound Curling Club treasurer, Don Dorosh makes no bones about how important it was to decide last July to forgo the 2020-21 season.

"I believe that the club would have folded had we opened," he said.

Right off the bat, the club was likely missing public rental and bonspiel revenues, while Dorosh anticipated that membership would have dropped as much as 20%.

"A lot of the curlers here are seniors, and a lot of them probably indicated that they wouldn't be curling," general manager Scott Wengi said.

Combine that with the roughly $100,000 it costs to run the club each year, with a significant outlay to install the ice, and any shutdown — which came via a provincial health order in early December — would have been devastating.

"We would have been on the brink of disaster," Dorosh said.

Wengi saw other clubs across B.C. open before being forced to shutter in what turned out to be a season-ending decision. Thus, he has observed the challenging situation Howe Sound sidestepped.

"They've all incurred significant costs having to refund membership dues or having to move them to next season," he said. "We consider ourselves a step ahead because we chose not to open, and it's saved us all that hassle."

In addition to avoiding the crisis, the club has recouped a bit of revenue by renting the space to the Squamish Pickleball Club, which can run singles matches in the space.

The goal is to reopen for the 2021-22 season, hoping that vaccinations are well underway and that restrictions have eased, Wengi said.

"We can definitely be more optimistic about it for next season," he said. "We're optimistic that we'll be able to get the public back and cater to public groups.

"We probably won't do as well as we have in past seasons when we've been open, but the curling club is more than ready to give it a go."

Wengi noted that the club has still felt some financial hurt from the pandemic and expects that some players will not return immediately, even when opening.

As an avid curler who was part of four different teams last winter, missing his first season since arriving in Squamish in 1977 has been difficult for Dorosh to swallow.

"Curling is a huge part of the winter for me," said Dorosh, who has curled since he was 12. "I'm missing the people that I would see on a weekly basis.

"It's part of the social isolation that we're dealing with today."

In addition to missing the chance to play, Dorosh also usually teaches juvenile curling to introduce youngsters to the game and improve their skills. He's kept busy with long walks with his dogs, scuba diving, and making improvements around the house.