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Kronau Curling Rink

Upgrades to Kronau curling rink “hurry hard” to get done for next season.

The sport of curling is kind of a big deal in Kronau, Saskatchewan.

When you get there, the sign that welcomes you to the community boasts that it's the home of the 1983 junior men's Canadian curling champions.

In the winter months, Kronau's curling rink plays host to an eight-team super league, a Friday night fun league and a "learn-to-curl" program for kids. The well-known rink skipped by Amber Holland played in the super league and regularly practices there.

It takes less than 20 minutes to drive to Kronau from Regina, so teams from the Queen City (and bedroom communities like Sedley, Pense, and Pilot Butte) regularly make the trip southeast on Highway 33.

"We've built a [curling] community of people in this town who don't live here," said Lona Gervais, chair of the Kronau Community Recreation Co-operative.

The structure of the three-sheet rink is actually the former Highland Curling Club out of Regina. When it was sold and moved to Kronau in the mid-70s, a new two-storey entrance, lobby and lounge building was constructed and attached to the front of the existing structure.

In addition to the heavy use during curling season, the building also hosted community events, municipal meetings, anniversaries, card nights, birthday parties and family reunions.

After three and half decades, the building in front needed some work. But the contractor wasn't sure if it structurally sound.

"Originally, we just wanted to renovate the inside," Gervais said. "But once we took the inside of the building apart, we found that the north side was soaking wet."

The insulation and ventilation were no longer adequate. The wind whistled through the front doors, often leaving a snowbank on the inside. There were cracked beams and an ongoing problem with mould in the ceiling.

Clearly, it was going to be a big, expensive repair job; it was a daunting prospect for the small community.

Help arrived in the form of government grants. In its 2009 budget, the federal government announced a program specifically targeted at the nation's aging recreational infrastructure. Under the Recreational Infrastructure Canada Program (RInC) program, Ottawa would pay for up to 33 per cent of upgrades to hockey arenas, athletic fields, swimming pools and - yes - curling rinks.

Kronau submitted an application in June 2009, but Gervais wasn't particularly optimistic.

"I never dreamed in a million years that we would get it, never," she said. "I was shocked, when we actually ended up getting the grant."

The federal government announced that it was contributed $90,398 under RInC. The Government of Saskatchewan matched that contribution with another $90,398.

That money is going to go a long way toward the total estimated cost of more than $600,000 of re-building.

"This is something that has been needed for many, many years and the governments' assistance has been a godsend," Gervais says.

The work began in April of 2010. Most of the lobby/lounge has been gutted; the first and second floors were nearly all that were left.

The new building will be properly insulated and, with a recently installed high-efficiency furnace, Gervais says the rink will significantly cut its utility costs which had previously reached as high as $3,000 per month during peak periods of use.

The renovated building is expected to be operational by October of this year... just in time for curling season.

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