Curlers can keep rocking at the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex for another season.
On Monday, city council voted against a staff recommendation that would have closed the curling facility this fall.
“I do not believe it is enough time to get everything ready,” said Coun. Mae Reid of the recommendation.
A merger with Port Moody’s curling club will now not take place until the beginning of the 2018 season, a decision most councillors said will give the clubs more time to work out the logistics of combining.
Council voted in favour of a 2018 closure last fall as part of the city’s Arena Services Strategy, which proposed amalgamating curling in Coquitlam with Port Moody’s club. Staff said the curling ice at Poirier would be better utilized for minor hockey and other skating sports whose practices can start as early as 5:30 a.m..
But subsequent conversations between staff in Coquitlam and Port Moody found that a 2017 start date for the combined club was possible.
In a February letter to Ron Higo, Port Moody’s general manager of community services, Raul Allueva, Coquitlam’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture services, said, “Although Coquitlam council authorized the transition to take place in 2018, as a result of recent staff discussions, I would like to confirm our intent to proceed towards transitioning to one club in Port Moody in September 2017.”
The letter drew sharp criticism from curlers in Coquitlam, who said moving up the amalgamation date would not give the clubs enough time to conduct a proper transition.
Earlene Graham, president of the Coquitlam Curling Association, said her club was hoping to have the upcoming season to improve the ice in Port Moody and work on scheduling the 16 Coquitlam leagues with the eight currently operating in PoMo. She also noted that some socialization would be required in order for the two clubs to successfully merge.
“Suddenly we are being told that this date is to be moved,” she said. “It is both unfair and quite frankly exasperating.”
A majority of city councillors agreed.
Only Coun. Brent Asmundson voted in favour of moving up the merger date while councillors Reid, Craig Hodge, Terry O’Neill, Bonita Zarrillo, Teri Towner, Chris Wilson and Mayor Richard Stewart voted against the motion. (Coun. Dennis Marsden was absent.)
“If this is going to be one regional club, the curlers need time to prepare,” Hodge said. “I don’t think you can arrive in Port Moody and say, ‘Here we are.’”
The debate over the future of curling in Coquitlam has raged since last fall, when council voted in favour of removing the curling facility at Poirier.
Last week, Brian Bastien, a curler in the senior men’s league, told The Tri-City News that he filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal, alleging that the city is evicting the curlers because of their age.
The city said that using the curling ice for other sports is a stop-gap measure to help keep up with demand for hockey and figure skating time. The Arena Services Strategy calls for two additional ice sheets but they will not be built until between 2025 to 2029, at a cost of $30 million.