A new accessible lift at the Williams Lake Curling Club has already resulted in an event that was more inclusive. A celebration of life at the club included a guest in a wheelchair.
Manager Ken Hall said the lift will enhance the club’s capacity for rentals and also open up the opportunity for accessible curling.
“We had Allison Duddy, one of the top wheelchair curlers in Canada and from Quesnel, do an accessibility assessment for us,” Hall told the Tribune, noting having the lift in the building makes the ice and the lounge accessible. “It has three stops and that is why there is a door on each side.”
After the 2017 wildfires, the club received some rental money for hosting out-of-town fire departments at the site.
That chunk of change allowed the club to pursue grant opportunities for the lift, which took about two years to develop a plan of how it would look and where it would be located.
The club was successful in receiving $100,000 from the federal government through the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada and another $47,000 from Northern Development Initiative Trust.
In July the club received its permit for the lift.
Registration for the curling season will open on Sept. 5 and the first curling will begin immediately after Thanksgiving.
“We have the fall fair in here so we can’t start to put in the ice until after that is all cleaned up. Then we will start cooling off the building, washing down the floors and things like that,” Hall said.
It takes a full month to put in the ice, he added.
Pointing to some tarps at the end of the rink, he explained how traditionally the ice had to be painted white and then all of the circles were painted on afterwards.
Now they use big fiberglass sheets that are rolled out. They are white with all the circles and lines already on them.
“The boys are getting pretty good at it. They can get it all rolled out and set up in a couple of hours,” Hall said. “You start with ice, put the sheets down, and then add more ice on. It only goes up a little bit each time.”
When the rink opens there is just a little bit of ice on and it builds up over the season, slowly but surely, he explained.
Hall curls and became the manager in 2019 at the same time as Mike Pedersen was named president.
During the COVID-19 pandemic the club lost the second season of curling when it was shut down Dec. 1, Pedersen said.
“We refunded people, but also asked if they wanted to contribute to the club and help us through the period when we were not making any revenue.”
About 40 per cent of the club members did not take their refund and that money really helped the club through that time period.
“That’s the kind of membership we have,” Pedersen said.
Last year the club had 167 paid memberships. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new lift is planned for when the curling season begins.