The Curling Manual

Table of Contents

Section 14 Starting a New Curling Club

This section provides an overview of starting a new curling club. It offers an outline of a process and some tricks and traps of the curling club. The term "club" refers to a dedicated group of curlers that curl on a regular basis. Clubs can form and join regional associations with little effort (usually a minimum number of members and the association fee).

Process for Starting a New Club

Use the following simple process for new club start-up.

  • Start with a vision.
  • Draft a plan.
  • Find a core group of dedicated curlers.
  • Start slow by renting ice.
  • Build membership with a facility in mind.
  • Raise capital and/or create financing options for a new facility.
  • Design the facility.
  • Build your new club.

The Vision

If you're reading this, someone has a vision of a new club. It may the first club in a new market, an additional club in an existing market or a new facility in an existing market. Either way, the amount of awareness regarding the sport has increased exponentially since the Olympic coverage in 2002 and 2006 and many areas of the world are seeking curling.

Think big, plan carefully.

Drafting a Plan

Start by discussing your vision with a few people in the area. If it's worth moving forward, you need a plan. The plan can be as simple as gathering more information or as complex as club marketing, facility design, and implementation.

Start with a simple plan and build on it. Check the viability periodically.

Strategic Plan

Immediately upon the formation of your new club, a strategic plan should be drafted. A mission statement should be crafted to explain what you are, what you want to do and how you'll do it. A fairly detailed plan of goals and objectives should span the first three years of operation. The plan is then updated every year by the Board of Directors.

The Core Group

You may be acting alone, have a group of investors, or be part of a core group of enthusiastic curlers. In any case, you will need a group of people you can trust to work through the plan with you. In many cases, a lead person will head the project with help.

Find existing curlers in the area by contacting the national association. In the US, find the Canadian transplants. If you're from an existing market, find people that either share your vision or really like it.

Start Slowly or Jump Right In

If you have a core group and want to test the viability of your vision, try renting ice at the local ice rink. This may help build a membership base which you'll need to secure financing of a new facility.

On the other hand, a business case can be made to build a facility before you secure the member base. You will need to be more capitalized in order to stay afloat during the first few years of membership building.

Designing Your Facility

When you're ready, you'll need a design that works for your club. Below are some options and ideas to consider.

Club Configurations

Configuration refers to how clubs provide curling for their members. Some have dedicated facilities and others have no facility. The following describes a few configurations.

Non-Facility Options

Natural Ice

Like our curling fore-fathers, playing the game on a natural surface can be quite fun. A flooded area or pond (or large lake, for that matter) can be suitable for a game of curling and the beginnings of a formal club. Scribe the rings and off you go.

Ice Arena Rental

The easiest and least expensive way to operate a curling club is to rent ice from the local arena. Since arenas are not generally built for curling, the hockey teams and figure skater usually get the best times. The field of play is usually poor since the Zamboni prepares the base ice. Circles are either scribed into the ice each session or painted in the ice. Rock storage is a problem. Even one sheet of rocks must be stored cold to avoid melt-in at game time.

Studio Rink Rental

Some large arenas have studio rinks built to help with overflow figure skaters, broomball rentals and other events. If a studio rink is available, you may be able to rent it for a reduced rate.

Dedicated Facility Options

Curling clubs across the world have many sizes and shapes. The one thing they all have in common are sheets of ice for curling. Clubs range in size from one sheet to dozens of sheets. Clubs of the 2-8 sheet variety are the most common. A facility can be made multi-use in the summer months by adding air conditioning and a concrete base.

Attached Dedicate Curling

Many large arenas and rinks have enough compressor capacity to run a few sheets of curling ice. This option allows a dedicated curling facility to start without a separate capital investment in the refrigeration equipment, site work, parking lot, etc.

Stand-Alone Dedicated

The preferred configuration is a dedicated curling club as a stand-alone structure. This provides ultimate control over operations. This configuration is the most expensive from a capital investment perspective as well as an operational perspective.

In all dedicated facilities, a multi-use configuration helps. Curling in the summer is cost prohibitive due to high electricity costs. It's not out of the question but you'll need a fairly dedicated group to pay the electric bill. Summer facility rentals of the warm room and bar area can provide needed revenue to pay annual expenses. Weddings and other similar events can utilize your kitchen and bar area. Air conditioning and a concrete base are multi-use necessities.

Municipal Partnerships

Some municipalities are open to partnership ideas. Curling provides a unique offering to any parks or recreation program. In some cases, cities and towns will provide land at no or low cost in order to provide curling to the community. Normally, an agreement is made to offer curling through the town recreation program.

Club Size

Before designing the new club, consider how many curlers you will have. This is a difficult exercise especially in areas where there is little or no existing curling.

Club capacity is based on the number of sheets of ice. Work with this rule of thumb:

One hundred members for each sheet of ice.

Member demographics will drive that number up or down. The capacity of a large metro area clubs can be lower due to the lack of daytime curling.

Club Layout and Design

Designing a club is like designing a new house. There are many different styles. The areas of major consideration are the warm room, the ice shed, locker rooms, compressor room and restrooms. The following is a list of things to consider in the design of a dedicated facility.

Overall Layout Considerations

The following are suggestions for a curling facility. Carefully research each idea for viability.

Clubs in the northern hemisphere are best laid out from north to south, with the warm room end facing north. The ice shed home-end is warmed by the warm room walls and glass. To compensate, the ice shed away-end should receive southern exposure of the sun on the building.

The building entrance path must not cross the ice entry path. Players moving from the warm room to the ice and from the locker rooms to the ice should never cross the traffic area from the building entrance. This will track dirt, salt and chemicals onto the ice. A heated front walkway is a great idea. This eliminates the need for salting near the front door and never requires shoveling.

  • Warm Room Considerations
    • Bar area
    • Coat closet near entrance
    • Supply closet/room
    • Recreation area for billiards, game table, etc.
    • Television area
    • Restrooms outside the locker rooms
    • Fireplace
    • Kitchen
    • Office
    • Several phone locations
    • Meeting space (Board meetings, committee meetings, club rentals, etc.)
    • Bulletin Board area
    • Curling supply store area
    • Stepped area near glass for staggered viewing
    • Central vacuum
    • Handicapped ramps or elevator
    • PA system piped to all areas of the club
    • Refrigeration plant enunciator (little lights) monitoring area
  • Ice Shed Considerations
    • Playing surface grade. The ice surface should 5-6 feet lower than the warroom for best viewing.
    • Concrete base
    • Odd sheet number provides championship/TV sheet in center
    • Sheet size (15' 7")
    • Low ceiling height
    • Heat and dehumidification duct work
    • Shed insulation
    • Epoxy painted rings on concrete
    • Maintenance/Compressor room access
    • Scraper cold-storage area
    • Sheet scaling (building for 7 sheets but only using 5, or 5 to use 3)
    • Sheet border carpet
    • Light-ring telephone on-ice
    • Ice access restrooms (optional)
  • Locker Room Considerations
    • Capacity should be one complete draw (number of sheets times 8)
    • Locker types (should be tall enough for a broom)
    • Benches (members should be able to sit and change shoes in front of their locker)
    • Minimum two toilets for men, three for women)
    • Showers (optional)
    • Broom bag storage above lockers
    • Ice access directly from the locker rooms
  • Compressor Room Considerations
    • Easy access from ice
    • Heated snow pit (melts scraper snow)
    • Deionized water and water heater station for pebbling
    • Work bench and tool area
    • Heat exchange from condenser discharge
    • Fractional surface temperature control

Facility Design Essentials

The following items are the "must have" items for your new facility. They are all ice and field of play related. When you discuss the options for new facility and begin to allocate funds, include these items first. Your club is first and foremost about curling. Spending extra money on your warm room is great but only after these items are covered. Even novice curlers enjoy the game more on a good playing surface. Fast, true ice allows all skill levels, including juniors to make shots more consistently. To have great ice, you need a properly designed and equipped ice shed and a competent ice technician. This will allow ease of ice prep for all leagues and levels.

Odd Number of Sheets

When deciding how many sheets to build, your potential membership numbers will dictate. Capacity, long term is the main consideration. Once you have determined your capacity needs, think about an odd number of sheets. We recommend never building less than four sheets. If you've decided on four then consider moving up to five. An odd number provides a "center sheet". This can be surrounded by carpeted walkways for high presentation value. The championship sheet can used for championship games, televised games, club championship, etc. This is where a prominent logo or sponsor logo will go. National championships, Olympic Trials, Mixed, Juniors etc, are usually round robin events with ten teams. Five sheets minimum is necessary to host these events.

Concrete Base

A concrete base (as opposed to sand) in your ice shed is essential for making and maintaining ice. It allows the ice tech to easily make ice at the beginning of the season without requiring the help of too many people. With the rings and lines epoxy painted on the concrete, an ice tech can make ice from scratch in 2-3 days. This will save on electricity and allow the club to make ice for summer bonspiels.

Concrete also provides an even temperature control on the surface. The cooling pipes are embedded in the concrete by several inches and about four inches apart (on center). The mass of the concrete will dissipate the cooling properties evenly between the pipes resulting in a perfecting level surface above it. In contrast, a sand base does not have the mass of concrete and will "pull" heat unevenly with more cooling over the feed pipes and less over the returns and dead space. This causes "pipe runs" on the surface which are slight depressions over the return pipes. This is not level and requires much more ice maintenance than concrete.

Sound quality in the shed is also better with concrete. Rocks run quieter instead of the low rumble caused by sand over and insulated base.

Insulation, Heat and Dehumidification

Proper climate control is necessary to control moisture. Allowing moisture in your building will cause frost on the ice surface requiring more time and energy to prepare the ice. Frost causes rocks to run straight. Choose a quality system that will provide heat and dehumidification. Heat exchangers using heat from the refrigeration plant can be very energy efficient.

Your club's coordinates (position latitude) will dictate how much dehumidification you need.

Low Shed Ceiling

A low ceiling in the shed will reduce the volume of air to be controlled, making it more energy efficient. Sound from screaming skips is also reduced.

Radiant Heat Curtain

Your ice surface is being bombarded by radiant heat from the sun through the roof, even on cloudy days. Placing a radiant heat barrier under your roof will greatly reduce the radiant heat on your ice surface. This in turn allows the compressor to cycle less to maintain your surface temperature.

Compressor Capacity and Cycling

A properly fitted compressor will allow your ice tech to make ice in a short period of time. It will also "pull" heat faster when large heat loads are placed on the ice. Heat loads include heaters, players, lights, etc. (television lights add an enormous load).

Compressor cycling should be controlled in tenth of a degree to maintain your desired surface temperature.

Financial Overview

Unfortunately, financial information for brand new clubs is limited. Clubs are generally formed by a small group of dedicated curlers in a certain area. Very few clubs have been completed from scratch in the last 30 years. In many cases, new facilities are the result of existing clubs rebuilding.

The following is a skeleton annual cash flow statement of a new club with 6 sheets. This club has a full time manager/ice person. A one million dollar start-up costs is categorized as follows; the land is purchased at 250,000, the structure built for $500,000 and equipment at 250,000 financed at 60%.

Use the following numbers as a guideline and adjust as necessary.

Fully Staffed Club

Revenues
Memberships Dues
300 members X $400 $120,000
Bar Revenue $40,000
Club Rental $5,000
Bonspiel Revenue $20,000
Total Revenue $185.000
Cost of Goods Sold
Bar goods $25,000
Expenses
Utilities $25,000
Insurance $10,000
Real Estate Taxes $13,000
Snow Removal $5,000
Club Manager/Ice $40,000
Payroll Taxes $8,000
Principle & Interest $40,000
Misc. $19,000
Total Expenses 185,000
Gross Cash Flow $0,00

You can see that is a break-even scenario. These numbers are VERY rough. They should be used as directional only.

Working these numbers can be a fun exercise. Membership can really drive the numbers. This example has half of capacity of the club as members. Obviously, the key factors are the land and building costs, amount of initial capital and the full time manager. Substitute donated land, more capital, no manager (volunteer based), more members, higher dues, etc. Driving the revenue items can dramatically increase cash flow. Occupancy costs (mortgage, rent, real estate taxes, etc.) will stay fixed. Utilities will be a semi variable cost, increasing only with added draws during the day. Club rental is a popular source of additional revenue. Daytime rentals for off-site corporate meetings can draw $500 for an afternoon, not including bar revenue.

Volunteer-Based Club (no payroll and payroll taxes)

Revenues
Memberships Dues
300 members X $400 $120,000
Bar Revenue $40,000
Club Rental $5,000
Total Revenue $165.000
Cost of Goods Sold
Bar goods $20,000
Expenses
Utilities $25,000
Insurance $10,000
Real Estate Taxes $13,000
Snow Removal $5,000
Principle & Interest $40,000
Misc. $4,000
Total Expenses $117,000
Gross Cash Flow $48,000

Equipment

  • Ice/Shed Related
    • Two 25 ton compressors, condenser, chiller, brine pumps, or,
    • Three 20 ton compressors
    • Fractional controller (.10 of a degree)
    • Cordless scraper with 5' blade
    • Hand scraper
    • Scoreboards
    • Twelve trash bins
    • Stiff bristle 6 foot broom
    • Soft sheep skin 6-foot broom
    • Misc. shovels and brooms
    • Two measuring devices
    • Two six foot measures
    • Paint sprayer with pump
    • Pebbler with pebble head
    • Hot water heater for pebble
    • Deionized water system
    • Dedicated ice mop and bucket
    • Kitchen
      • Commercial range with grill
      • Exhaust hood
      • Dishwasher
      • Coffee grinder and brewer
      • Commercial walk-in refrigerator/freezer
      • Microwave
      • Misc. serving and cookware
      • Food prep sink and disposer
      • Hand sink
      • Fryer (optional)
    • Bar
      • Dishwasher
      • Ice maker
      • Lockable bottle cooler
      • Keg refrigerator
      • Taps
      • Glassware
      • Cash register
    • Warm Room
      • Sheet monitors for away end
      • One round table and chairs (8) for each sheet of ice
      • Two soft couches
      • Two soft chairs
      • Two tables
      • PA/Music system
      • 50" flat screen television (optional)
      • 9' Pool table (optional)
      • Meeting table and chairs
      • Fireplace grill and equipment
      • Display case
      • Food serving table
      • Dance floor
      • Specialty lighting
    • Office
      • Desk
      • Computer
      • Phone system (2 lines minimum)
      • Fax machine/Printer
      • High speed wireless router
      • File cabinet
      • Misc. office supplies
    • Conference/Board Room
      • Conference table (seating for 10)
      • Flip chart
      • Dry erase board
      • General
      • Misc. cleaning equipment (brooms, mops, etc.)
      • Snow shovel
      • Misc. tools

    Handicapped Accessibility

    Wheelchair curling is becoming popular. Access to your club for wheelchair-bound members can open new league opportunities. It may also be a Federal regulation. Ramps may be required and multi-level structures may require an elevator. Carefully check regulations on this.

    Refrigeration Plant

    Refrigeration systems are rated in tons of capacity. Tons of capacity is different depending on the latitude (average temperatures) of your new club. A four sheet club at 42 degrees north will require approximately 15-17 tons of capacity per sheet to keep curling ice. More tonnage is desirable at ice making time when the plant is freezing multiple floods in September and October. During the season, the system will have to maintain a desired surface temperature.

    Staffing

    There are two staffing models in the curling club world.

    • Full time manager/ice person
    • Volunteer (member staffing)

    We know of clubs in Canada and the US that have a full time staff to manage the club and prepare the ice. We also know of clubs that are 4 and 5 sheets that have no paid employees. In either case, most clubs have a volunteer group to help out and the Board is generally made up of volunteers.

    Staffing Needs

    The ice is the most labor intensive area of club operations. To provide a proper playing surface, the ice must be cleaned, scraped and pebbled daily. This, combined with other ice duties takes about 30 minutes per sheet per day. Plan on maintaining ice at a four sheet club two hours per day. Ice technicians must be trained to scrape and pebble.

    Tending bar and managing food and liquor purchases is the next most labor intensive. Conceivably, one full time person can maintain the ice and manage the bar. The bar requires about 1 hour per day of work outside of bar tending.

    Club cleaning must take place every day as well.

    Member Recruiting

    Recruiting members is a difficult task. Every four years we have a huge opportunity to add members with very little recruiting. The Olympic curling coverage in the spring of 2002 and the spring 2006 proved to be valuable time for most curling clubs.

    During non-Olympic years, clubs must actively recruit members, train them and provide a fun league for them to play in.

    Member Training

    Proper training will help retain curlers as they will be more proficient and are likely to enjoy the sport. This manual should be used as the training source material for your club. The United States Curling Association has downloadable training courses for use at your club.

    Committee Structure

    Your club will need several committees to oversee the key areas of club operations. Even with a paid staff, volunteers should oversee.

    Board of Directors

    Clubs work best when the members are involved with decisions. Since the entire membership can't meet periodically, a Board f Directors is necessary. Keep the numbers down on the Board. Overstaffing the Board can cause problems of scheduling and general lack of productivity during meetings. A Board of 5 to 9 people works best. The following is an example of a curling club Board.

    • President
    • Secretary
    • Treasurer
    • VP Ice
    • VP Club Operations
    • VP Membership
    • Regional Association Representative

    The following is a list of necessary committees:

    • Ice VP Ice
    • Bar VP Club Ops.
    • Kitchen VP Club Ops.
    • Membership VP Membership
    • Facility VP Club Ops.
    • Events VP Club Ops.