Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Kinross Curling Trust launches defensive action

Kinross has been something of a magnet for me so far this season. There's lots going on there, of course. Last weekend was the British Open Wheelchair Curling Championship. The international wheelies are back there next month (see here) and this weekend the juniors command the ice in the Kinross Junior Classic.

But Kinross is also centre stage in the biggest story in Scottish curling this year. I refer of course to the plans to construct Scotland's national curling centre in the town - a six sheet rink with associated training facilities for our elite curlers (and which will replace the aging existing rink and benefit the local curling community), offices for the Royal Club, and a curling museum. The project has not attracted universal support (see here and here). However, the interim trustees of the Kinross Curling Trust, which will own and run the facility, have seized the initiative by producing a ten page document entitled, 'Proposed National Curling Academy: FAQs and Common Misconceptions'. A draft of this was sent out to all on the Trust's mailing list, and was discussed at a meeting of representatives of local curling clubs at the Green Hotel last night.

The document addresses in detail the following:
1. What is the current position?
2. When is the proposed NCA facility liable to open?
3. Who will own the facility?
4. Will the trustees be remunerated?
5. What are the likely lease arrangements between Kinross Curling Trust and the owners of the site, Kinross Estate Company?
6. Why could the site not be purchased?
7. Why do we need to fund-raise locally?
8. Why is there a target of £250,000 to be raised locally?
9. Why have local clubs been set a task of raising at least the equivalent of £100 per playing member?
10. What happens if my club fails to reach the target? Will it be disadvantaged?
11. What happens to the money if the project does not go ahead?
12. Is there any form of co-ordination between clubs and the Kinross Curling Trust to prevent fund-raising events clashing?
13. What other fund-raising initiatives are planned by the Kinross Curling Trust itself?
14. How is the money going to be raised for the cost of building the facility?
15. Who is paying for the RCCC offices and the RCCC Charitable Trust Museum?
16. What happens if the amount raised falls short of the required amount.
17. Will the club curler end up paying more for his curling because of this new facility?
18. Why has the cost escalated from the original £3.25m to £5m?
19. Why is it estimated to cost £5m when the Fife Curling Trust reckon they can build their proposed rink in Cupar for £1.55m?
20. Why is the NCA so much bigger than the current Kinross facility or the proposed rink at Cupar?
21. Do we need these extra facilities such as a museum, gymnasium, offices etc. Why not just a curling rink?
22. £5million is a great deal to be spending on a single curling facility, albeit a National Curling Academy? Would this money not be better spent on building new, less expensive, curling rinks elsewhere (ie Cupar, Ratho)?
23. Who is involved in the design?
24. How much use will the National Squads make of the facility?
25. Will the club curlers be subsidising the National Squads?
26. Is a six sheet facility in Kinross justified?
27. What happens if the NCA does not go ahead?
28. Why could the Green Hotel Curling Rink not simply be refurbished rather than being replaced by this new facility?
29. What will the existing Green Hotel Curling Rink be used for once it closes?

Now, I am going to be a tease and not say here what the document gives as answers to these questions. For two reasons. Firstly, the whole document is going to be placed on the Kinross Curling Trust's website in the near future. And secondly, the document I have in front of me is but a draft, and is likely to be altered a little in the light of last night's meeting. Look out for it being posted on the Kinross Curling Trust website.

Suffice to say that the document goes a long way to countering the doubters. It would be uncharitable for me to say that it is somewhat late in coming. Those behind the project should not be having to mount a defensive action at this stage. Communication, openness, transparency, honesty - our sport is not always the best in these areas.

Still, I'm glad I went to Kinross last night. I learned more about the facility and how it might be run. On this last point, nothing is set in stone. The facility will be owned and operated by the Kinross Curling Trust, made up of members who will pay a membership fee. Six trustees will be elected by the members at the inaugural Kinross Curling Trust AGM on Sunday November 15 at 1.30pm at the Green Hotel. The Royal Club has the right to nominate three trustees, taking the total to nine. Incidentally, Founder Memberships are currently available for a donation of at least £25 (papers can be downloaded here), and you need to be a member to vote at the AGM.

It strikes me that this election will be the most important step in the whole process. I really hope people with skill, experience and enthusiasm are elected. The consequences are unthinkable if the management is poor. I learned last night that the trustees will probably set up an 'operating company' to look after the icemaking, catering and bar, and general maintenance of the facility. Details of course are lacking - all these decisions have to await the appointment of the nine trustees. Incidentally, Jamie Montgomery, current owner of the existing rink and hotel, stated publically last night that he would like to continue to be involved, having apparently said the opposite at a previous meeting.

As a concerned RCCC member, I had one question that I had to ask last night. "Is the business plan for the new complex robust enough?" The last thing I want to see is the facility go belly up in a few years time because speculations on ice usage and income have been over optimistic. I was assured by the two acting trustees who were present last night, Bob Tait and Jamie Montgomery, that the business plan is sound. Indeed, Bob indicated that it is currently being thoroughly examined by independent accountants. It is to be published too, after a key meeting with the VAT man later this month!

What will the complex be called? You could be the one to decide. A competition was launched last night, as a fundraiser, for the best name. I've entered! The name has to reflect the national importance of the complex for the sport in Scotland. And no, anything with 'folly' in the title is unlikely to be met sympathetically!

I'll wind up this post with two final concerns. Much of last night's meeting was about local fundraising. Yet the facility will have national importance. The RCCC Charitable Trust is set to launch its own fundraising activities for the museum part of the project. It is to be hoped that the two sets of fundraising don't trip over each other.

It is time too for the group who will benefit most - the top competitive curlers and those who aspire to reach the top - to speak out for the NCA. There is an implication in the recent RCCC Area Standing Committee minutes that some feel they don't need the Kinross facility. That implication is damaging in the extreme. I'm sure though it is just not true and it should be knocked on the head at the first opportunity.

Did I learn anything else at Kinross last night? Yes I did. There will be a new senior women's team in action this season, and I had the opportunity for an in depth interview. Well, not exactly. More of a gossip and a bit of a crack in the bar after the meeting! Which is the reason for the lateness of this report this morning! More on that story in due course, in the hope that Skip Cottage Curling will be on hand to record the activities of the over 50s during the season.