By Matthew Horwood
After more than 68 years in Westboro, the Granite Curling Club will be moving on to a new location.
Increased property taxes, an old facility and failed redevelopment efforts have left the club’s 530 members with no choice but to leave their facility at 2026 Scott St. and move to a different neighbourhood.
On March 28, over 90 per cent of the club’s board members approved the plan to buy a new property on Queensview Drive east of Pinecrest Avenue. Greg Mathieu, chair of the club’s redevelopment committee and former club president, said the decision was difficult for those who had worked hard to remain in Westboro, as well as the members that live close to the club.
“We realize some people will not be thrilled with this because of the convenience of where we are,” Mathieu said. “But we hear the train coming down the tracks, and we have to react.”
In late 2016, the Granite Curling Club was given notice that their property taxes would effectively triple from 2017 to 2021. Their tax rates jumped from $8,000 to $25,000 a year, before the club appealed to the city and was able to reduce them to around $13,000. Still, the club has been forced to raise fees for their members.
The property tax hike was due to the club being located on a valuable plot of land on Scott Street, just a few steps away from the future Westboro LRT station.
“We expected another healthy four-year increase in our property taxes, until the point where it’s unbearable for us because we are no longer competitive with the other curling clubs,” Mathieu said.
The age of the building, built in 1953, was another reason for the move, as the curling club is unable to maximize its usage year round. A lack of air conditioning, as well as not having a concrete ice pad, means the club can’t operate during the summer.
“You look at those things and say, how much would they cost to put into this building, or do we have to look at redevelopment? The conclusion was we had to redevelop it,” Mathieu said.
After the Granite Curling Club brought a developer on board, they came up with two options that might have allowed them to stay in Westboro. In October 2019, the club approached the city with a land-swap deal, which would have involved a replacement facility being built behind the current club on a part of Lion’s Park.
This would have resulted in the current location being turned into green space, modifying Lion’s Park and giving it easier access to Scott Street. But Mathieu said for “reasons valid to them” the city rejected this plan.
A second option involved the club selling off a portion of their property to raise enough money to purchase a new club in Westboro. But Mathieu said the footprint of the club would have been compromised too much, and so the members were not happy with that plan.
Ultimately, the club’s board of directors decided that the tax hikes would make redeveloping in Westboro unsustainable, and they would have to look farther elsewhere. Although they could not remain in Westboro, the club had a “strong affinity” to stay in west Ottawa.
Mathieu said because there are few real estate options in the west end of the city at this time, the curling club was worried if they waited too long they would end up as a “suburban curling club in the southwest part of the city.”
The move to a new facility may take until 2023 to be completed, since the new curling facility needs to be built. In the Granite Curling Club’s current place, there will likely be a proposal for two 25-storey towers on the property.
Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper said he was sorry to see the club’s members choose to move.
“Facilities like these are an important part of a 15-minute community, and I know generations of Kitchissippi residents have made the club a part of their life,” Leiper said.
Leiper acknowledged that as land values continue to rise, and many facilities are faced with expensive life-cycle investments, the Granite Curling Club likely won’t be the last to relocate.
“Club members and residents faced a number of conflicting priorities in this discussion, and I know this wasn’t an easy decision for them.”