OUTLOOK: Charting a course for recreation in Chilliwack

The Chilliwack Curling Club looks ahead as Chilliwack lays a course for recreation needs in the future.

Over the last 15 years the Chilliwack Curling Club has hosted the BC Men’s Championship

Over the last 15 years the Chilliwack Curling Club has hosted the BC Men’s Championship

Bruce Renwick would miss the old Chilliwack Curling Club building if it were ever replaced. But as he leans back in his chair and looks around his tiny little office overrun with stacks of papers and curling shoes, he considers the possibilities.

“I love this building. We all do,” said the CCC manager with a smile. “But it’s probably time for a change.”

The City of Chilliwack’s latest Parks, Recreation and Culture Strategic Plan identifies the current building as a candidate for replacement.

“The facilities most clearly approaching the end of their functional lifespan are the museum, the curling rink and Evergreen Hall,” the report notes. “While the existing facility shows no signs of currently being in jeopardy, it will not likely be functional for another 20 years, so planning for its replacement should likely be done in this current 10 year strategic plan.”

The current building dates back 60 years and was built without any help from the city.

The Chilliwack Curling Club has defied the trend in recent years, keeping and even growing their membership while other clubs have seen their numbers erode.

The CCC can legitimately call themselves an economic generator for the city.

“We host anywhere from 12 to 30 out-of-town teams (four people per team) at each of our five annual bonspiels,” Renwick said. “They stay at our hotels and eat at our restaurants. We also host corporate bonspiels where the whole event is out-of-town people. ICBC, for instance, brings 30 teams for an entire weekend.”

The building has six tightly-packed sheets.

A new building would hopefully have at least eight.

With a new, hopefully bigger, facility, the CCC’s ability to bid on big events would be enhanced.

“Over the last 15 years we’ve hosted the BC Men’s Championship, two BC Mixed and two High School Championships,” he said. “But because of the constrictions of the building, they aren’t as functional. We put on a good show, a first-class event, but the new facility would certainly strengthen our case for hosting more of those major bonspiels.”

Maybe even national events.

The CCC is already planning to take a run at the 2015 Canada Cup, which would be played across the fields at Prospera Centre.

“Historically in BC, we haven’t drawn the crowds they do out on the prairies, so the Canadian Curling Association has been hesitant to bring events out here,” Renwick said. “So we have to work with the city and the province to bring those events here. But the membership at our club is fantastic. We have a number of longtime members who are proud of this building and this club, and they get excited when we bring a big event here.”

At the same time the CCC is up for replacement, so too is Evergreen Hall.

The well-used building is still structurally sound and has had a lot of additions and facelifts over time. But it’s nearing 80 years old.

Evergreen Hall and the curling club share a corner space at Corbould and Spadina, and Renwick believes combining the two into one big multi-use facility would make a ton of sense.

But the city isn’t ready to commit. If a new CCC is built with financial help from the city, there’s no guarantee it stays in its current location.

“Being located on one of the City’s highest profile sites may not be required,” the report hints.

The city would also want the new building to have some built-in flexibility, to keep it from lying dormant in the offseason. Perhaps a floor underneath the ice that could be put to use during the summer months? Perhaps Renwick’s Evergreen Hall idea?

The city’s strategic plan identifies other projects that may, pending approval by council, move ahead over the next 10 years.

At least one additional ice sheet added at Twin Rinks to make it… Trio Rinks? Triple Rinks? Trois Rinks?

A second turf field at Townsend Park or at a completely different location?

A new indoor tennis center and the development of a sports complex on the south side of the freeway.

“The outdoor Rotary Pool is nearing the end of its life-span and we’ll need to plan the next steps based on that,” said Chilliwack mayor Sharon Gaetz. “It could be upgraded. It could be removed. Or something new, like a spray-park, may go in that space. We’ll talk to current users, like the Spartans Swim Club, to figure out a plan, and council will discuss that.”

Over the last decade, Chilliwack has seen a brand new arena (Prospera Centre) built. The Chilliwack Cultural Centre opened two years ago. The city artificially turfed two fields (Townsend and Exhibition Stadium), and the Cheam Leisure Centre was partially renovated.

Gaetz said advance planning was crucial to saving money on those projects.

“We don’t borrow money. We pay as we go,” Gaetz said. “So we have to have a pretty clear knowledge about where we want to go and what the needs will be in the future. This allows us to look at trends, ask the public for feedback and meet those needs moving forward.”

Download the complete Parks, Recreation and Culture Strategic Plan in PDF form here