Curl Sudbury re-brand part of a larger vision
by Randy Pascal
Tom Leonard knows the Sudbury curling scene just about as well as anybody in the area.
Working in some capacity or another at the Sudbury Curling Club for more than a quarter century, dating back to his high school days, the
accomplished icemaker has served as facility manager for the past several years.
As such, he can empathize, quite easily, with the folks in Copper Cliff and their summer long struggle to maintain the rich history and tradition of
curling in the local mining town.
Leonard also understands, far more than most, that the recent re-branding of his group under the Curl Sudbury moniker, is about far more than
simply sending a message that curling can be for everyone.
The vision and need for a new curling facility in the area, one that would require those involved in the sport to come together in a manner seldom seen
at any other time in the 125+ year history of curling in Sudbury, has potential to serve as a catalyst for inevitable change.
"This is hopefully to get everyone at the same table, in the future, down the road," said Leonard. "We do have a lot of aging building in the city, and
while memberships are perhaps not declining, they are certainly not increasing."
With their announcement on hold, Leonard and company waited patiently to allow things to play out in Copper Cliff, a sequence that would ultimately lead
to a healthy influx of new board members at their table.
"Now that they have committed to opening and making a go of it, we needed to move forward with our initial strategic plan, which is to re-brand the
Sudbury Curling Club into Curl Sudbury, make it an all-inclusive facility and an all-inclusive brand," he said.
"We are going to be the only curling-only facility in the area that is going to be open twelve months a year, not with ice, but with the ability to
host banquets and social events. This is something I've been talking about for 15 years."
"I believe we've hung on to a brand for too long," Leonard continued. "It's just the evolution of the sport, putting us in a position to move forward."
Understandably, he is quick to acknowledge both sides of this coin, the very essence of much of the debate that was spotlighted with the previous and the
new board members of the Copper Cliff Curling Club.
"We certainly do not want to discard any history of curling from any facility in this city, but we also have to move forward," Leonard suggested. "We
have aging buildings, we are going to need a lot of help through fundraising, help from various levels of government."
"We're ultimately talking about a 10-12 sheet facility with a money tag of a million dollars a sheet," he admitted. "We're going to need help from the
Sudbury curling community. We're not so naive as to believe that we are going to be able to do this all by ourselves."
"We wanted to get the ball rolling, we wanted to get some curling news in the media that wasn't focused on facilities closing, wasn't focused on the
negative. We still have six curling facilities in the city, which is fantastic. In the future, maybe one big facility will suffice."
It's a conversation where folks in curling tread lightly. "The goal here is not necessarily to close other facilities, but we want to make sure that the
city of Sudbury has curling well past my years, and well past the younger generations' years."
"We're going to have to get to that," Leonard insisted. "If you take a look at the total revenue that curling can generate in the city, and compare that
to the expenses of all the buildings, it just doesn't add up in the long term."
The events of this summer prompted a certain amount of discussion in this regard. Leonard, for one, is thankful that there is at least talk on the
subject. "I'm a positive person, so even ten, fifteen years ago, I was still very positive that this will happen down the road," he said.
"I think we've put a more definite timeline to it. The sooner we start to work on it, the sooner it's going to happen."
The irony of the nature in which the sport of curling has garnered media attention in Sudbury this summer lies in the fact that it contrasts so deeply
with all of the success that local curlers have enjoyed on both a provincial and national scale in recent years.
Just days after the unveiling of Curl Sudbury came more good news for local athletes, as a total of five local post-secondary curlers were awarded
scholarships under the "For the Love of Curling" program.
What was striking about the news was the relative scope of local content. Krysta Burns and Megan Smith both were awarded $1100
scholarships, meaning that two of the three presentations at this level would be made to Sudburians.
Nicholas Bissonnette, Kira Brunton and Sara Guy will receive $1000 each, denoting 30% of all monies that were open to young curlers
across the country, through the Canadian Curling Foundation, would make its way to Sudbury.
"What people usually read about locally is the elite, so it looks like we are kicking butt in curling in Sudbury," acknowledged Curl Sudbury board
president Jason Bissonnette. "But it is one of our challenges, because people think that all those who curl here are elite, which sometimes scares
"We wanted to reach out to the average individual, the social curler, the recreational curler who just wants to come out and enjoy the facility."