Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From Chalfont to Kinross

Chalfont St Giles is north west of London, just outside the M25. It could be the site of England's second dedicated curling rink (after the now well established Fenton's Rink) if Stephen and Vicky Hinds have their way. The plans are online, here.

Stephen says on the website, "By having a venue where all the sports can be played for most of ones life, serving top quality food straight from the farm in a pleasant and sociable atmosphere, we believe that the people of Chalfont St Giles and the surrounding areas will have a perfect setting to achieve healthy lifestyles."

The centre will house a four-sheet curling rink at Flexmore Farm, and a hall for table tennis, archery and fencing. There will also be a small fitness equipment studio, separate table tennis practice room and dance floor. The club room will include a cafe/restaurant area and a bar and there will be a farm shop at the entrance.

Early days of course, but it's an innovative and intriguing idea. Download and study the plans for the centre and you'll see what I mean.

Nearer home, I reported recently about attending a meeting of the Kinross Curling Trust, see here. Chairman Bob Tait has now written to all the members. This will no doubt appear on the Trust's website (here), but I feel it is important to reproduce what he says, to provide balance to my own negativity about the 'National Curling Centre' project now.

Bob writes:
"The Trustees are very grateful to 64 members who attended the meeting on 7 September and participated fully in the discussion. Without a doubt it was the liveliest curling meeting I have attended in nearly 35 years involved with curling and the most beneficial for that reason.

The Trustees felt it important to air the challenges fully and to gather the views of members. The presentations achieved their purpose - to prompt discussion and to identify the ways forward. A report by Bob Anderson covered potential changes to the building in response to altered requirements from the Institute of Sport and the RCCC, in particular the fact that the RCCC Trust cannot pay for its floorspace. Robin Niven described the updated business plan, which continues to show a sound business. Funding the construction remains the major outstanding challenge. The footnote has more details.

Members confirmed their commitment to a curling facility in Kinross and the consensus was that the Trustees should pursue the original concept to provide the national curling centre of excellence encompassing the ice, the offices and museum on the Market Park site - in other words for the first time provide a genuine home of curling. Some adjustment to the present design and further attempts to reduce cost and find funding will be required but the end product will still be consistent with the original brief.

Members welcomed the intention of the RCCC and the Trustees to make joint representations to senior Ministers and Councillors to seek additional public funds to support a sport that achieves outstanding results on the international stage, unrivalled by any other sport. Members commended a debenture initiative as a means of boosting member input, reducing the funding gap and helping to minimise commercial borrowing. I encourage any member who has experience of and may be interested in debentures to get in touch with me. There is no commitment at this preliminary stage and fuller information will be provided.

The Trustees encouraged members present to resume local fund raising as cash will be needed later in the year to augment the £30K held by the Trust and to progress the project. The Trustees expect to launch a 50/50 club shortly."


Building Specification

The current design with planning permission reflects the original brief agreed by the RCCC and sportscotland. But elite level curling needs and available funding, particularly from the RCCC Trust, have changed. The gymnasium, offices for coaches, 300 permanent seats, and the ice hall walkways could now be omitted. This would save 356 m2 equivalent to £200,000 bringing the estimated costs to £4.8m.

A further saving of £600,000 could be made if the RCCC sought offices and museum space in existing buildings. If these were close to the Market Park the concept of a national centre could survive. The estimated cost would then be £4.2m.

Business Plan Review

A thorough testing and updated the business plan has been carried out:
Increased utility costs from £60k to £80k
Increased insurance costs by a third
Increased staff costs by 7%
Reduced lending by £500,000
Reduced interest receivable from 7% to 2%
No change to ice charges or membership fees
Increased high season peak use forecast by 5%

A summary of the income and expenditure follows

Income: Year 1 - £501,244; Year 4 -£641,175
Cost of Sales: Year 1 - £173,493; Year 4 - £204,102
Expenses: Year 1 - £209,195; Year 4 - £249,674
EBITDA: Year 1 - £118,556; Year 4 - £187,399
Loan cost: Year 1 - £46,083; Year 4 - £33,989
Depreciation: Year 1 - £156,333: Year 4 - £139,053
Surplus/(loss): Year 1 - (£83,860); Year 4 - £14,357

The shortfall in funding the construction is estimated as follows

Option 1
Estimated cost £4.8m
Estimated income £3.22m
Gap £1.58m

Option 2
Estimated cost £4.2m
Estimated income £2.97m
Gap £1.23m

This will be addressed in a number of ways. Reducing the specification of the building, hiring rather than buying equipment, competition among prospective builders, additional borrowing, grants and fundraising.

So that's the present position for everyone to discuss and think about before a decision is taken to progress the project, or not, come November.