Ottawa

Curling club says DND rent increase will force it to close

The Royal Canadian Navy Curling Club near Dow's Lake is facing a nearly 10-fold increase in the rent it pays to lease land from the federal government.

Rent at Royal Canadian Navy Curling Club to rise from nearly $7.5K a year to $77K

Stephanie Duggan, president of the Navy Curling Club, and longtime curlers René Boucher and Miles Pittner say the club may have to close if the annual lease jumps from $7,500 to almost $80,000. They say the loss of the club would be a blow to the community. 1:46

Curlers want local members of Parliament to hurry hard and help save their club.

The Royal Canadian Navy Curling Club (RCN) has been home to bonspiels, league events and family gatherings for decades. On any weekday, you can find retirees sweeping rocks across a sheet of ice, with weekends open to youngsters learning the ropes. 

Established in 1956, the building near Dow's Lake in Ottawa belongs to the club but the land it sits on is the property of the Department of National Defence.

Currently the club pays DND close to $7,500 a year to rent the land but when the lease expires in 2023, the rate will jump to $77,000 annually.

The club's president Stephanie Duggan says if the price hike goes ahead, the future of the club looks bleak. Raising membership dues or finding new sponsors won't put a dent in the enormous cost difference, Duggan said.

Royal Canadian Navy Curling Club owns its building and pays for all maintenance, but the land belongs to the Department of National Defence. (John Delisle/CBC)

"This is a huge increase," said Duggan. "We will not be able to deal with it and we will have to close our doors."

The non-profit club strives to keep annual fees affordable and all proceeds are put toward repairs and general maintenance for the building, Duggan says.

"We're a community facility, we serve a broad area in the national capital, we provide services for seniors and youth and its an asset that should not be allowed to close," said Duggan.

Club president Stephanie Duggan with handwritten letters for MPs. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

'We need to fight this' 

Since 2006, Treasury Board rules have required federal buildings and land be leased at a fair market value. The rules are the same, whether its a private company or a non-profit organization signing the lease.

A statement from DND says the current lease agreement with the curling club "is significantly lower than the current market rate for similar land in the area" and it plans to follow Treasury Board regulations by raising the rent.

But the curlers don't think the board's rules should apply to non-profit organizations like their club. 

They've started a letter-writing campaign, where each curler pens a note about the issue to their MP, in hope they can intervene on the issue. 

'It's home for me, it's family.' Curlers Don Wallingford, Miles Pittner and René Boucher, (left to right) have been sweeping for decades at RCN. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

"We decided well, we need to do something about this," said Duggan. "We need to fight this."

Liberal MP for Ottawa Centre Catherine McKenna and Carleton Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre are among those on the mailing list. 

Miles Pittner has been curling at the club for more than 30 years. He says the RCN is "more than a sports facility, it's a community," where seniors and families can enjoy being active. 

"I said in my letter … that I understand the desire [of the government] to have proper custodianship of our assets and the equity that we need, but here we have a non-profit organization that's costing [the taxpayer] zero."

 

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