Of just three curling clubs in the Lower Mainland that have managed to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic, one is Maple Ridge’s own Golden Ears Winter Club.
The club is managed by the husband-wife team of Shannon (office manager) and Dean (GM and ice technician) Joanisse. They are well known in the curling world – Dean having skipped teams at the Brier, and Shannon competing at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts. And they have been a champion management team – out of approximately 18 curling clubs in the Lower Mainland, Maple Ridge is one of the few that has continued to have curling.
All clubs opened in October with competitive curling leagues, but after just over a month of play came the challenge of public health orders prohibiting adult sports.
They weren’t allowed to host games, but they could practise, but only with about one-quarter as many people using the ice as during regular league games. Adult curlers generally don’t practise much – they play games weekly.
“We had to reinvent the wheel, and sell that to our membership as something worthwhile,” said Dean.
It worked for the first half of the season. They offered a video showing sanitation and other safety protocols that would be offered, and the membership got on board – about 85 per cent of the club’s 450 members signed up.
“We were hoping to get 75 per cent, so that was great,” said Dean.
The club was a great place for people to get away from the doldrums of Coronavirus isolating.
“It’s been a great escape,” said Shannon.
In the second half of the season, they lost a lot more. The 50 junior members – part of a strong club junior program – were allowed to have competitive games, and had a near-normal season. But only about 100 adults signed up for the second half.
The board of the non-profit club weighed the costs, and decided it was enough to keep the doors open.
The action on the cold side of the glass is important, but the warm side – the lounge area and social life – are also critical to a curling club. Golden Ears didn’t serve food, but the lounge remained a safe and hospitable meeting place. Friday nights have been lively, and generated some revenue for the club.
The safety protocols have worked – there have been no cases of COVID-19 at the club.
So the managers look back on the 2020-2021 season as a comparative success.
“We’ve had a good year, as far as that we’ve persevered,” said Dean.
Shannon said it is a close club, and has been on the grow in recent years, so it was good not to lose all their momentum.
“Dean and I, our life is curling. It’s our passion, and we just want to see the club getting through this,” she said.
On March 20, they will close the doors for the season. They plan to re-open on the Labour Day weekend for a summer bonspiel, and hope that by then adult sports competition will be back.
“If all goes well, we will be open for that,” said Shannon. “We haven’t been able to run an event, so it’s hopefully going to be a huge celebration.”
Until then, they invite new curlers to still come and book ice, and learn the sport. In the coming weeks, call the club at 604-463-4813.
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