Last month, Orillia Curling Club officials announced they had decided to cancel their season at the Barnfield Point Recreation Centre, putting 360 club members on ice.
The Coldwater Curling Club (CCC) went in a different direction, opting to forge ahead with the season amid multiple protocols meant to keep curlers safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the season kicked off on Oct. 19, about a dozen Orillia curlers have been making the weekly trip to Coldwater to enjoy their favourite winter sport.
Coldwater Curling Club president Steve Skalitzky hopes more Orillia curlers will join the club as the calendar inches toward the CCC’s second session, which begins in January.
“It helps bolster our numbers and doesn’t put as much pressure on us to be open for our traditional members. It helps the situation and makes our leagues more viable,” he said.
The CCC membership for 2020 is down to 120 curlers this year, which is about 60 fewer than normal. That means revenue is down and that is just one of multiple financial challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented.
“Sanitizing the club on a regular basis has been a financial challenge because we have to do a certain amount of cleaning between groups when they come and go,” Skalitzky said.
They also must sanitize the rocks and high-contact areas after each use.
Due to public health protocols, the club must operate under 50 per cent capacity. Each curler must complete a screening questionnaire, complete a signed waiver and practise social distancing.
“A lot of volunteers have put in significant hours implementing policies and programs developed by the Ontario Curling Association and the Canadian Curling Association and we’ve had direction from the health unit,” Skalitzky explained.
“It’s been challenging, but our volunteers are helping implement these procedures and modifying them to suit our club.”
Skalitzky says the procedures haven’t only been a challenge for the organization but also the members who are learning how to play the game a new way in the middle of a pandemic.
“Now, all of the sudden, you have to change the way you’ve behaved on the ice for years. That’s been a challenge,” he said.
“The first week was frustrating for our members because everyone had to learn new things and follow social distancing," Saklitzky said.
Almost a month into their season, curlers are now settling into the procedures and, generally, are having no problem following protocols.
“Most of our curlers have been very happy with how it’s gone, a lot of people are just grateful to get out of the house and do something,” Skalitzky said.
He said it's all worthwhile.
“We accept the fact that we need to keep the sport alive in Coldwater and we are going to do whatever is necessary to make sure the game is going to continue," said Skalitzky.