So here we are at the start of another season and hopefully you will have noticed the freshly painted area around the main entrance. This is down to President Robert and his team of volunteers over the summer.
What you will not see is a rather large piece of new kit called an Evaporator in the ice making plant. Midway through last season the Evaporator started to leak glycol. To replace it then would have required the ice plant to be switched off for a week so we kept it topped up until this July when it could be done with minimum disruption. The plant should have had a life of 20 to 30 years so for such a failure after just 9 years was not only disappointing but meant that the Board was faced with a very significant unbudgeted expenditure in excess of £20k.
That is money which we would have preferred to spend on more visible improvements and/or to avoid the increase in ice charges. The Board is very conscious of the need to keep the ice charges as reasonable as possible in order to encourage more curling.
Over the summer the ice rink has remained open with the income generated from skating covering our costs. Skating obviously cuts up the ice and is also softer than required for curling but Liam and his team were able to achieve reasonable curling ice to facilitate a number of corporate day's with Hendrick's Gin arranged by Scott. Well done to the ice staff, Scott and the coaches who came in to help out.
This coming season we will no longer be able to refer to the ice staff as ice men either with the appointment of Anna Friel part time seasonal. Anna is studying at Glasgow University and is working with us to help fund her studies. She joins Liam, Stefan and Tom.
The stones will be "dressed" for the new season by Mark Callan of Kay's who is also spending some time giving the team ice making training.
Our club presidents Isla and Robert are working hard along with the committee and the new card system is a step in the right direction to end the perennial issue over temporary memberships. Please support them in all their efforts.
If anyone has any issues which they wish to bring to the Board's attention please speak to any one of us. We are curlers too and we are all working for the benefit of everyone.
Unsurprisingly, it is apparent that most curlers are not aware of how Ayr ice rink is run. Back in the early 1970s, after the old rink in Beresford Terrace had been sold, there was no ice rink and the curlers of the day raised the funds through the issue of shares to purchase and convert the old dog racing track where we are today. That company was Ayrshire Curlers Ltd which is managed today by the Board of Directors - Liz Goldie (Chairman), James Galloway (Managing Director), George Hay (Company Secretary), Gemmill Jack, Jim Boswell, Andrew Kerr and joined at the AGM this year by Anne Kerr.
In order to obtain rates relief granted to sports clubs, Ayr CC was established and given a year to year lease. The club is primarily responsible for organising some although not all the competitions and for the bar and catering.
The Board is responsible for hiring the ice and office staff, the ice pads, ice allocations, RCCC competition bids, charges for skating and hockey as well as curling and for maintaining the plant and building fabric.
The Board and the Club share a common purpose in providing the best facilities possible and maintaining, if not growing, the number of curlers. The relationship between the Club and the Board has evolved over the years and, generally, works well with the Board able to take a longer term view than the Club which has a revolving President and committee. The Board are all volunteers and, for the avoidance of any doubt, none receive any renumeration ! They are, of course, required by law to act in the best interest of the shareholders but no dividend has been paid in recent times and an undertaking was given to Sport Scotland not to do so when that body match funded the replacement of the plant back in 2010.
The number of sheets of ice required by the curlers has been falling year on year. The costs of operating the ice rink are rising year on year and, just as an example, our electricity costs have just increased by £10k pa. Taking both these factors into account the Board looked to make savings which we were able to do by altering the session times. This enabled us to have one ice man instead of two on duty on nights with two evening sessions. However, the one man requires a longer period between the curling sessions as he has a wet cut to fit in on the small ice pad. We have managed to cut out most of the unpopular 9.30 sessions but we also tried to accommodate clubs' other requests and so we have a variety of ice times this coming season. We will see how it works out and will look again at the ice times next season, if necessary.
The finances of the ice rink are tight and frankly, without the skating and hockey it's unlikely that curling could survive. These other two disciplines now account for half the income.
Over the last few years the Board has invested in new stones and a new Ice Boss by way of interest free loans from the World Curling Federation which are paid back over a 5 year period. The Development Group assisted with the purchase of a new ice edger and these are all visible improvements. Not so obvious are the major repairs carried out to the roofs, new boilers, heating in the lounge and downstairs in the skaters' lounge and the replacement of corroded gas pipes. We have refurbished the girls' changing area and toilets and, this summer, also the gents' toilets downstairs. We have replaced half the barrier in the small rink, installed new doors at both the curlers' entrance and the main door and painted the lounge and office. On refurbishment works alone we spent £26k in 2016 and a further £19k this year. Fortunately, we were successful with grant applications to South Ayrshire Waste and Environment Trust which were submitted through Ayrshire Ice Sports Ltd.and these helped.
This company was set up on a not for profit basis in an attempt to secure charitable status. Unfortunately, our application to the charities regulator was rejected but we are still looking to pursue this as there are significant financial advantages in having charitable status.
The Board will continue to invest in improving the facility as and when funds permit. The ladies changing room and toilets are, we know, one area of concern but I can only repeat that funds are tight.
Each month a report from the Board is given to the Ayr CC committee and questions to the Board can be raised either through the committee or straight to any of the Directors detailed earlier.
As you start the new season there are a few changes you will have noticed. Firstly, there is now a large barrier at the entrance to the car park. Please try and avoid hitting it as your car will come off worse ! Just before the start of the curling season we arrived one morning to find the car park being used by "travelling people". As anyone with any experience of having dealt with similar situations will tell you, it is extremely difficult to have these people removed but, thankfully, we managed, after having started legal proceedings, to move them on just in time for Opening Day. We would rather not have them back, hence the new barrier - all in all, money which we would have preferred to use elsewhere in the rink.
Secondly, the lounge has been redecorated and some new light fittings installed. We would have liked to replace the ceiling but even without that, hopefully, you will agree that the lounge is now bright and welcoming.
And finally, a cairn of curling stones has been erected at the car park entrance. These stones came from David Smith's house and are a fitting tribute to "The Sheriff".
Changes which you will probably not notice include the provision of heating to the skaters' lounge from the boiler located off the lounge and a new boiler downstairs to provide heating to the downstairs changing area and, specifically, hot water for the kitchen to avoid the costly immersion heater. The girls' toilets downstairs have also been completely refurbished which was long overdue and a new roof installed over the curlers' entrance to cure the water ingress which was becoming a feature of this area !
In addition, we have purchased two new measures, one of which is in use with the other being held in reserve for now to use during Royal Club competitions and we are awaiting delivery of an ice edger - as the name suggests, a piece of kit to cut a channel next to the barriers to avoid the ice banking when the pad is flooded.
As you will see, I hope, the Board has been active over the summer improving the facilities for all our users and these works all come with an associated cost. We have been fortunate to secure a significant grant from South Ayrshire Waste and Environment Trust and are also indebted to the Development Group for assistance towards the ice edger and an anonymous donor who contributed half the cost of the redecoration and the new measures. The Board would have liked to do more and will continue to invest in the facility when it is financially prudent to do so.
We had hoped to have Mark Callan from Kay's of Mauchline along before the start of the season to train ice man Stefan and to give Jim and Liam a refresher course but Mark was called away on Olympic duties. Mark however, was with us earlier in the summer to turn the stones which should give them more of a draw.
On a sadder note, the late summer also saw the passing of Charlie Otterson and Bobby Davidson. Charlie gave many years service to the ice rink and we will miss his knowledge of the plant and building. Bobby had not been with us all that long but was always willing and helpful. Stefan replaced Bobby when we became aware of his illness and was with us last season. Cameron McKinnon has joined us on a part time basis.
The original ice rink in Ayr was sold for redevelopment in the early 1970s and the curlers of that time raised the funds themselves and through public subscription to buy the current site at Limekiln Road. The company formed was Ayrshire Curlers Plc and they converted what was a dog racing track into the ice rink as we know it today.
The current directors are well aware that the facilities require upgrading. The replacement of the ice plant a few years ago was achieved with support from SportScotland but the Board had to match fund this and, effectively, use up the reserves we had.
Today figure skating and ice hockey are financially essential to balance the books and without those sports it is highly unlikely the ice rink could survive.
Repairs are carried out in a prudent manner and, with the excellent support of sponsorship from the curlers and an exceptionally favourable financial arrangement between the World Curling Federation, RCCC and the Board, we have replaced all the stones and are also moving forward to conclude a similar deal for a new Ice Boss.
We would like to do more but it is an old building and there are a great many maintenance issues. The ice staff under Jim McInnes have made great strides to improve the quality of the ice and the Board have arranged for an ice makers course to be held in the Autumn of 2015 when Mark Callan of Kay's will be with our team for a whole week.
The Board are also responsible for running a number of curling competitions, not least of which is the Agricultural Bonspiel and we, obviously, work closely with Ayr Curling Club on any number of matters.
Because the ice rink was originally funded by shareholders there was a concern by SportScotland that any grant aid would find its way into shareholders' pockets. Although no dividend has been paid for many years and an undertaking was given that none would be paid, nevertheless the Board have formed a "not for profit" company, Ayrshire Ice Sports Ltd. It was hoped that this company would be able to achieve charitable status which would assist with future grant applications but this is currently proving difficult to achieve.
Ayrshire Curlers Plc moved from being a Plc (with the illusion that we were a company the size of British Gas) to a Ltd company in 2013 and the current directors are Mrs Liz Goldie who is the Chairman of the Board, James Galloway who is the Managing Director, George Hay, Company Secretary, Mrs Sheila Watson, Mr Gemmill Jack, Mr Jim Boswell and Mr Andrew Kerr.
Ayrshire Ice Sports Ltd has three directors from the Board of Ayrshire Curlers Ltd in Mr Andrew Kerr, Mr James Galloway and Mr George Hay.. They are joined by three curling representatives in Mr Billy Howat, Mr Euan Lawrence and Mrs Anne Anderson. It is envisaged, in the fullness of time, that representatives from the figure skating and ice hockey would be invited to join.
All the members of the Boards in both companies are always open to suggestions and advice !