Despite parking challenges, there's one thing curlers could count on before they got to the Grain Exchange Curling Club last night: Bruce Peloquin would be there to lend a helping hand.
Sure enough, Peloquin, who started curling at the Grain Exchange in 1977 and has been its secretary for over 20 years, was there running the draw desk on the opening night of the Winnipeg men's zone playdowns.
Curlers, myself included, will tell you it's the people you meet at the various clubs that make the sport so special. It's a big reason why the club on Fort St. will be missed when it shuts down after next curling season.
"It's just been a good place to curl," said Peloquin, the club's president in 1986-87. "You meet lots of people (and) make lots of friends."
Friends of Upper Fort Garry bought the club in 2008 as part of their plans to turn the historical site into a heritage park and interpretative centre. They will take possession of the property on June 30, 2011.
"It was a stipulation by the City of Winnipeg -- for the city to contribute or be part of it - they required the Friends to acquire the Grain Exchange Curling Club," said Mike Mainman, president of Grain Exchange Curling Club Ltd., the company that owns the club.
Its downtown location has often caused problems for the club. It doesn't offer any daytime leagues on weekdays because of difficulties with parking in the area.
The only regular curling on weekends is a mixed league that plays every second Saturday. And Mainman says "significant capital investments" would be needed in the next few years to keep the club in operation, which includes putting in a new roof.
Given the condition of the club and the plans from Friends of Upper Fort Garry, Mainman says it made sense to sell it.
"We can make it from year to year, but there's really no growth," said Mainman. "We're not seeing growth in membership or leagues, and I think it's common across other clubs."
When the Grain Exchange closes, its members and leagues could end up at another club. Mainman says Grain Exchange Curling Club Ltd. has discussed the idea of a merger with seven other clubs: Granite, Elmwood, Thistle, Wildewood, Rossmere, Fort Garry, and Fort Rouge.
"We would like to maintain as much of our identity as we can."
The Grain Exchange formed in 1928 -- the year Manitoba won its first Brier with Gordon Hudson at skip -- and has been at its present location since 1948.
"I think it's mostly the people you meet and the friends you make though curling -- those are the memories," said Mainman.
NOTE: A reminder that the entry deadline for the MCA Men's Bonspiel is Thursday at 4:30 p.m.
5:45 p.m. draw
Kelly Dennison, Pembina 8 Dave Smith, St. Vital 7
Eugene Desjarlias, Fort Rouge 6 Ken Ringaert, Heather 2
David Kraichy, Pembina 8 Jay DeFoort, Fort Rouge 4
Dan Dixon, Victoria 7. Merv Satterthwaite, St. Vital 2
Dave Carswell, St. Vital 8 Ian Beavis, Fort Rouge 1
Jim Conacher, Victoria 6 Andrew Wickman, W. Kildonan 0
James Scott, Fort Rouge 9 Earl Edmundson, For Garry 3
Brad Haight, W. Kildonan 8 Corey Chambers, Pembina 5
Scott Madams, Pembina 7 Barry Swain, Thistle 6
Sean Grassie, Deer Lodge 7 Bryan Zachary, Granite 6
Mike Mahon, Deer Lodge 7 Troy Hamilton, Fort Rouge 2
9:15 p.m. draw
Adam Norget, Pembina 6 Justin Reynolds, Thistle 1
Neil Okumura, Pembina 8 Mark Franklin, Fort Rouge 7
Andrew McMillan, Wildewood 9 Andrew Irving, Heather 3
Larry Dreger, W. Kildonan 7 Ken Schenkeveld, Ft Rouge 3
Rob Cosens, West St. Paul 6 Joel Marcon, St. Vital 3
Craig Strand, Fort Rouge 8 Kelly Lauber, Pembina 3
Collin Sundell, Victoria 10 Kevin Exell, Deer Lodge 8
Dave Johnson, Pembina 8 Jim Kirkness, Fort Rouge 2
Gord Green, Charleswood 7 Dave Tonnellier, W. Kildonan 5
Don Nelson, Fort Garry 10 Mike Hebert, St. Vital 9
Doug Riach, W. Kildonan 7 Dave Watt, West St. Paul 0