BY Travis Mealing – Alliston Herald

It’s still early in the game, but officials from the Midland and Penetanguishene curling clubs are hoping to secure funds to take a shot at a new regional curling facility.

A proposal for a new curling centre at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre in Midland was presented to local mayors, councillors and municipal staff on Sept. 8 at the Midland Curling Club.

Board members from the two clubs have been meeting since May with the recreation directors from Midland, Penetanguishene, Tiny and Tay to explore the idea of a multi-use eight-sheet rink to replace the two aging curling facilities. The Penetanguishene rink was constructed in 1972, while Midland’s building dates back to 1919.

“Facing a combined capital requirement of up to $1.5 million to meet legislated accessibility standards and to replace obsolete mechanical systems, it seemed appropriate that the two neighbouring clubs should explore ways to combine their resources,” George Dixon, president of the Midland club, stated in a press release.

“As we looked at the possibilities, it became more and more obvious that combining memberships and eliminating one complete set of operating costs was the way to go.”
Keith Robillard, president of the Penetanguishene club, said the proposal was unveiled at the annual general meeting on Sept. 1, although no vote was taken.

“Financially, it makes sense to join the two clubs together,” he said.
Under an infrastructure stimulus fund announced in July for non-profit organizations in Ontario, an application for up to $4.7 million of the estimated $6-million project cost was submitted Aug. 15 by the Midland club.

Glenn Howard, a Canadian and world curling champion, as well as a longtime member of both clubs, has thrown his weight behind the concept.

“This has been talked about on and off over the years,” he said, “but I was blown away to see how far this group has come in bringing it to a reality. It makes so much sense. It offers huge potential to not only attract more participants, but (also) to host more regional, provincial and national events, draw visitors to the region and add to the local economy.”

Mayors Jim Downer (Midland), Anita Dubeau (Penetanguishene), Scott Warnock (Tay) and Peggy Breckenridge (Tiny) voiced support for the proposal, although they cautioned financial support from the municipalities might be problematic in today’s economic environment.

The recreational and health benefits of the sport, its contribution to tourism in the region, and the four-season multi-use potential of the project will need to be carefully weighed against the cost.
“If our application for federal and provincial stimulus grants is approved, we feel that the new organization will be able to raise much of the required local funding,” said Dixon. “At that time, we’ll present funding proposals to the county and to the four municipalities.
“If the stimulus grants aren’t forthcoming, we’ll continue to explore ways to make the project a reality. It just offers too much potential, with a very real opportunity to make North Simcoe the curling capital of Ontario.”

Though last week’s meeting with municipal leaders focused on a potential Midland site, Robillard said the proposed facility’s location is not set in stone. He added reaction to the plan has been mixed.
“We’re going to have issues no matter what we do or where it’s located,” he said, acknowledging one stumbling block could be the willingness of Penetanguishene curlers to trek over to Midland to play. “That’s why we want to put it to a vote of the Penetang members.”

The two clubs boast a combined total of approximately 550 members, with almost half coming from Midland. Penetanguishene and Tiny residents comprise about 20 per cent each, with the balance coming from Tay and a few from outside the region.

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