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Sweeping changes: how this Island curling club is attracting a younger crowd

‘It’s a wonderful, fun game. Intellectually challenging, good physical workout, it’s social’
Comox Valley Curling Club manager Keith Parry has worked for the past six years to expand the club and improve its value. Photo by Ali Roddam

The Comox Valley Curling Centre is rocking a new look.

In the last six years, the club added pick-up leagues, upgraded its bar to keep craft beer on tap, and opened on weekends. Membership doubled, a new demographic signed up to play, and local businesses became sponsors.

While manager Keith Parry worked the past six years to expand the club and improve its value, the average demographic has decreased by roughly 15 years of age, social leagues started on Friday and Saturday, and the bar quadrupled its options to offer eight beers on tap — adding craft brews from across the Island.

A big goal of recent changes has been to attract newcomers into the sport. To do this, having a dark beer, wheat beer, IPA, pilsner or lager, sour or fruity, and a hazy beer on tap doesn’t hurt; but Parry’s main focus has been to launch social leagues that give newbies a chance to break onto the ice.

“(We’re) opening it up to non-competitive curlers and fun curlers and new curlers, ultimately,” said Parry. “The best way is to have four friends or family or coworkers to join a league but if you don’t, we’ll help you find a team.”

The Gladstone Friday fun league has been a popular addition since Parry started six years ago. It’s backed by sponsorship from the local brewery and facilitates casual competition that allows players the opportunity to try curling for a season of just five weeks.

In the past, seasons have traditionally run for 23 weeks — making it hard to test the sport.

Continuing the work to appeal to newcomers, the Comox Valley Curling Centre is adding a $10 drop-in and play league in the new year that will run on Saturday afternoons. Leagues have also been added such as mixed-gender leagues and leagues of all-ages play.

The hope is that players who like the sport will scale up into more competitive leagues. The new expansions have been successful in breathing new life into the club, but Parry makes sure to emphasize the club still keeps a competitive player base in the higher-level leagues.

“It’s not all fun, we have champion-level curlers here,” he said. “Who… I hope… are having fun when they come.”

Parry said he brought his ideas from past experience. The idea of creating sponsorships in the community came from his experience in the music business; the idea of creating social leagues came from his experience working at a club on the mainland; and the idea of upgrading the bar came from living in Vancouver — where he took interest in craft beer.

Of course, putting new beer in the curling club was also a personal choice.

“There was actually no beer here that I would drink,” he said with a laugh.

But the real passion for changes at the club is curling.

“It’s a wonderful, fun game. Intellectually challenging, good physical workout, it’s social.”

READ ALSO: Duncan Curling Club’s Craig rink takes national club curling bronze

Connor McDowell

About the Author: Connor McDowell

Started at the Record in May 2023. He studied journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax
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