Better options for Lake Cowichan curling rink than curling, resident says

I believe I heard last year the numbers were down 20 per cent

Ted Gamble

Ted Gamble has had enough with the lack of use of the curling rink at the Cowichan Lake Sports Arena.

The issue is one Gamble, who had an unsuccessful run for town council in the 2014 election but has since left politics, has been working on for the last several years — at least as far back as 2017, but has had an interest in for much longer.

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He said a report as far back as 2008 indicated the curling rink should be removed.

“That report was buried and nothing was done at that point,” he said. “It was definitely recommended that curling was on the way out and the number of people it was serving was not good enough.”

The Cowichan Lake Sports Arena underwent extensive renovations and re-opened in 2011 but Gamble wasn’t impressed with the result.

“They did not put in the gym in the major reno and I think that got replaced with the curling lounge, which has a bartender on curling nights and in my view that’s not recreation,” he said.

A second consultant’s report was done in 2017 and, according to Gamble, it noted all of the curling, or at least two of the three rinks could be removed.

Instead, a compromise was made via covering up the ice at times in favour of other activities.

“You can’t put in anything permanent and what they do put in there is temporary pickleball courts or a gym with like 10 or 12 items. It’s pretty sad,” Gamble said.

He added that back in 2017 there were between 50-70 people using the curling facilities and that the curlers were given three years to get their numbers up.

“I don’t believe they’ve done that. I believe I heard last year the numbers were down 20 per cent,” he said. “They’ve gone down.”

Linda Blatchford, manager of Cowichan Lake Recreation, said her group has not looked at the curling rink’s useage statistics since the last study.

“Re-looking at this might be something we undertake with a consultant in 2021 but nothing to report at this time,” she said.

With a host of new families that have moved into the Lake Cowichan area over the last few years, Gamble is hoping there will be more support for a change, though he no longer wishes to lead the way.

“I would like to see some of them take up the charge,” he said of new residents. “I definitely would support a movement in that direction.”

Gamble wants to see the curling space be the centre of a community hub that welcomes children and youth and their families.

“A small pool could be put in there, though that’s a bit of a stretch,” he said. “We have nothing in our town for our teenagers, very little for any kids of any age. We could have a rock climbing wall, a gym, a permanent yoga studio, batting cages…” he proposed. “I look at the Aquatic Centre in Duncan and it’s awesome. It’s well used. We need to build something that’s for the greater part of the community.”

While he’s all for recreation if it’s being used, Gamble said the curling facility space is “not optimal at all.”

“People keep saying once it’s gone we might never get it back but it’s not being used now that we have it. There’s people that would definitely get involved with recreation opportunities if we had something better to offer.”

This week, Lake Cowichan is co-hosting the provincial Masters Curling Championship.

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