The brand new Chilliwack Curling Club building officially opens its doors today.
CCC manager Bruce Renwick was all smiles earlier this week taking your friendly neighborhood sports writer on a tour of the 30,000 square foot facility.
“I’m a little excited,” he says. “Fifteen years I’ve been pushing for this and six years of planning went into it, so it’s kind of cool that it’s finally happening.
“I think it’s a nice addition and a final jewel in this area with Townsend Park, The Landing Leisure Centre and the other stuff.
“There aren’t too many cities that have this right in the middle of town.”
The first stop on Renwick’s tour is the kitchen and restaurant space on the bottom floor.
Renwick describes it as ‘a chef’s dream,’ as he points out the walk-in freezer and two overnight cookers that will steam meat/veggies.
“Stick a roast in there, press a button, come back the next morning and it’s done absolutely perfect,” he grins.
Right outside the kitchen is a wide-open area that will serve as an 80 seat restaurant, providing breakfast and lunch seven days a week.
The club will be able to cater events for its membership and outside groups, providing a revenue stream that didn’t exist before.
“We’ve got a charbroiler, double-deep fryer, six-burner stove, 36-inch grill and a pizza oven, and our plan is to run a basic Cookie’s (Grill) style thing serving home-cooked meals at a decent price,” Renwick explains. “We put about a quarter million of the club’s money into this space and there are hotels that don’t have a kitchen this size.”
Size is a recurring theme that comes up again and again as the CCC leaves behind the claustrophobic confines of the old barn next door.
Take for example the new ‘Pro Shop’ area.
It’s no exaggeration to say the old Pro Shop was the size of a large closet (112 square feet), with excess inventory often spilling into Renwick’s office.
The new building gives Renwick an actual office that he’ll share with his bookkeeper.
“It won’t be Grand Central Station like it was in the other building,” he laughs.
The adjacent Pro Shop gives Renwick the opportunity to properly display merchandise, and potential customers won’t need to elbow others out of the way to see what’s on sale.
“And what a concept to actually have a storage room!” he says, flinging open a door at the back. “Instead of keeping things in my office or under the stairs.”
Of course, being a curling club, the main feature is the eight sheets of ice that will immediately buzz with activity as leagues get underway.
CCC ice technician James Michayluk started painting the ice Wednesday, using roughly 700 gallons to do the job.
The club’s ice plant features cutting-edge technology that’s rare in North America but has been used in Asia and Europe for a decade.
The system uses a different kind of brine that Renwick describes as ‘super green and super efficient.’
“At the old building we ran a 15 horsepower brine pump, and here, with 40 percent more floor space we’ll run six horsepower,” Renwick says. “We were running with 300 pounds of ammonia and now we’ll be running with 80 pounds of ammonia.”
Curlers used to starting their season in September have been waiting to get on the ice, and Renwick says the sheets are already booked solid.
In the five-month off-season that starts in late March/early April, the ice will come out and 23,000 square feet of concrete floor will be available for sports groups (roller derby/pickleball/indoor tennis), trade shows or other activities.
“I’d like to do a once-a-month concert series where we bring in a bigger-name band like Brickhouse in,” Renwick muses. “Maybe something where we have 500 people in there with a limited dinner menu and beers.
“That’s the sort of thing that will bring us more into the community centre end of things.”
The bottom floor includes a multi-purpose room that can be rented out for meetings, and a second meeting room is upstairs.
But the main event on the upper floor is a bar/lounge area that will be available for special events, with floor-to-almost-ceiling windows providing a view of the curling action below.
The room will include four 58-inch televisions.
A bank of smaller TVs runs above the viewing windows, showing the feed from cameras overlooking the ice.
The bar features a sizeable walk-in cooler with refrigerated beer lines that will deliver eight different kinds of draft.
The lounge has a divider wall to turn one room into two, and Renwick already has Christmas parties booked through December.
The first one is tomorrow (Saturday) night.
The layout of the new building is reminiscent of the old building, and that’s intentional.
At the end of its half-century lifespan, the old place was falling apart, and the space wasn’t nearly enough to accommodate 700-plus members. But the design was solid, and Renwick borrowed heavily from it when the CCC was asked to plan the new building.
“We didn’t go with gold plating and fancy stuff like that,” he says. “We designed a very functional building that’s going to last this community another 50 years.”
The CCC built the building they’re leaving way back in 1954, and they built the one before that too.
This is the first time the City of Chilliwack has made curling a capital investment, putting approximately $11,000,000 into this project.
Renwick credits the City for a process that has been great from start to finish.
The club will give back to the community whenever they host a big event, such as the 28 team Everest Canadian Senior Curling Championships that will be here next March.
And increased revenues will allow the club to become a much larger employer.
“A lot of it will be part-time, but including the restaurant we’ll go from seven employees to around 35,” he says.
Renwick doesn’t expect an official ‘grand opening’ of the building to happen until the new year.
“It’s going to take a month to get all the kinks worked out of it, and before I invite everybody in here I want to make sure it’s running properly,” he says. “You only have one chance to make a first impression, and when we do invite everybody into this building I want to make sure we’re ready to go.”