A $7.4-million project to modernize and add four new ice rinks to the 60-year-old Red Deer Curling Centre is underway after several years of eager anticipation from curling enthusiasts.
Renovations began last week on the building at 4725 43rd St.
Curling president Scott Dickson said the pylons went into the ground on Feb. 6, the first step towards making the aging facility a great one for curlers.
“We’re tearing down and replacing the ice area of the curling club and adding four more sheets, so we’ll have 12 curling sheets,” said Dickson on Wednesday.
Work will involve tearing down the rear portion of the curling centre and replacing it with a nearly 38,000-square-foot addition. The front part of the building will be refurbished, including upgrading the lounge and viewing area on the second floor. Many more seats will be added.
“The front area will be extended because currently it only matches with the eight rinks,” said Dickson.
New dressing rooms will be built in the front area, too. The offices, storage space and small concession area will be redone.
“Based on a (growth) study done by the city, they were ultimately going to need 24 sheets,” Dickson said. “We were sitting with four sheets at Michener (Centre) and eight at the Red Deer Curling Centre.”
Alberta has become a hotbed for top curlers, so the exposure has grown, he said. Most of the leagues at the Red Deer centre are full, plus the centre has no room for additional weekend bonspiels.
Dickson said the work will be done primarily over the next six to eight months, with most of it to be done by Nov. 1. The key is to have those curling surfaces finished in time for curling season, which kicks off in October, he added.
Curling centre operators will officially close the building on Friday afternoon, just prior to opening day of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts women’s national curling championships at the Centrium.
Dickson said this is an exciting time for the club, which has seen delays due to funding as well as location issues.
“We’ve been in different (proposed) locations, had different support and different costs that have gone up and down,” said Dickson.
“So it’s required a lot of patience to get what it would finally look like and how much we were able to get from the community.”
The curling centre looked at building on a new site but that was deemed too expensive. The curling club also suffered a setback when it didn’t receive a $5.6-million Building Canada grant.
Last November, city council supported spending $5 million from the 2012 municipal capital budget on the project. That’s on top of the $1.175 million previously approved.
Dickson said the $7.4-million project also includes grants. Increased membership dues over the last several years have also contributed to the project, he added. The curling centre will also receive money from Scotties tournament revenues.
Some fundraising has been done but more is needed. Besides what is in the bank, Dickson estimates $1 million will be sought through a fundraising campaign over the next six to eight months.