Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kinross update

Let's be quite clear, I would love to see Scotland have its National Curling Academy. The saga has been ongoing for seven years or more. I believe it was Greenaces and Braehead in the frame at first. Then Stirling. It was in October last year that Kinross won the bid over Ratho to be the site for a new six sheet rink which will also provide facilities for Scotland's elite teams. The new complex is also to be the new home for the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the governing body of the sport in Scotland, and there will also be a small museum of curling history.

I attended an open meeting about the project at the Windlestrae Hotel in Kinross on February 5, see here. At that time the projected cost was £3.2 million. I am appalled to learn that this figure has now reached over £5 million. In just seven months! The questions have to be asked. Why was the original estimate so much in error, or why has the cost increased in so short a time?

What has prompted this post is that former RCCC Chairman Bob Tait, who remains one of the trustees of the Kinross Curling Trust, distributed by email on Friday a report of a meeting with local club representatives held on August 17 at the Green Hotel.

Twenty-eight people attended, representing fourteen of the clubs in Loch Leven Province. In addition, Kinross Curling School, Kinross Ladies Centre and the Area Curling Development Officer were represented. From the Kinross Curling Trust were Jamie Montgomery, Bob Tait, Alistair McCabe, Linda Young, Mary Morgan and Angela Wilcox.

One significant thing is that the projected date for the completion of the project is the beginning of the 2011-12 season, and not next year, as was hoped for at February's meeting.

I have summarised Bob Tait's report below.

Outline planning permission was made in mid June and that process is continuing. As indicated above, costs are estimated now to be 'in the order of £5m assuming that most of the VAT proves non recoverable'. Cost savings are to be pursued. Funding is being sought from sportscotland and other grant giving public bodies, whilst the RCCC and the RCCC Trust will be responsible for the cost of the office and museum respectively.

The purpose of the recent meeting was to get local fund-raising efforts underway, it being stressed that this area is important when grant-awarding bodies come to assess funding applications. A 'challenging' target is to raise £250,000 (or 5% of the present estimated cost) from local sources, via Kinross Curling Trust activities, local curling clubs, individuals and local companies. The Kinross Curling Trust itself now has an active team led by Linda Young which is pursuing fund-raising ideas on behalf of the Trust. A date has been fixed for the first of these - a BBQ on September 11 at Loch Leven’s Larder, cost £15. A raffle, dinner and auction and fashion show are being planned.

Local curling clubs have been encouraged to identify their own fundraising ideas within each local community with the aim of raising by June 30, 2010, a minimum of £100 per member.

The Kinross Curling Trust’s first AGM will be held in December 2009 at which a fully constituted Board of Trustees will be elected. The Trust’s Constitution dictates that the Trustees are elected by the Members. From the start of the new season in mid September, there will be a campaign to persuade local curlers to take out membership of the Kinross Curling Trust which amongst other things will entitle them to vote at the AGM.

A promotional video of the proposed facility is being considered for national and international promotion. A curling development plan is being drawn up for the next three years at Kinross, with a strong focus on schools.

A further local club fund-raising meeting has been arranged for Tuesday, October 6, at 7 pm in the Green Hotel.

No punches have been pulled in the tone of the meeting report. "It was pointed out that local Curling Clubs really must look to ‘pull their weight’ in this fund-raising process if they wish curling in the area to continue beyond the next few years. The existing curling facility at the Green Hotel is rapidly reaching the end of its life and is highly unlikely to be refurbished due to the prohibitive £1m+ cost of bringing the building up to standard and replacing the plant and machinery."

What confuses me somewhat is that the rationale for a new curling centre at Kinross was as a National Curling Academy, and not primarily as a replacement for the existing Kinross rink. Naively, I had assumed over the past seven years, that funding was more or less in place for a National Academy to be built, somewhere. But obviously not.

A replacement four-sheeter to keep curling in the Kinross area would not cost £5 million! What is the paragraph above intended to do? Scare the local clubs? Bully them? Send them to Cupar? Encouraging club members to help would surely have been better than telling people to 'pull their weight'? It could have been worded better, surely.

Perhaps it is just me, but I thought it rather defeatist to include the sentence, "The troubled economic climate together with the relatively high age profile of curlers will add to the challenge of galvanising local curlers into action but that was felt to be no excuse for not giving it our best shot." Are the local curlers all about to die off? Does whoever wrote this think that 'older people' are not enthusiastic about their sport, or that these curlers don't have the time or energy to get involved in fundraising activities? The more I read this sentence the more angry I get!

The plans for the complex are available from the Kinross Curling Trust's website. I'm no expert in being able to imagine what architects' drawings are going to turn into when the building is constructed. For me, what is important is how good the ice will be. And that the architects don't make the mistakes they made at Curl-Aberdeen.

Not everyone is impressed though about how the proposed building will look. Check out this blogger's take on Archial's designs!

There's been a thread about the National Curling Academy on the Scottish Curling Forum for a while, see here.

I said back in February that I was excited that the National Curling Academy was finally going to happen. Why am I having doubts tonight?

By all means share your thoughts by commenting below, or in the Scottish Curling Forum. Note that you need to be registered on Blogger to comment below (this is easy to do), although you can make your comments anonymously if you chose to do so.

Kinross photo is by Bob.