Curling club breaks ground for ice rink
The weather called more for an oar than a broom, but members of the Triangle Curling Club nonetheless were happy on Saturday to break ground for an ice rink that’ll be the first of its kind in the southeastern United States.
With 14,500 square feet or so of space, the new facility will have space enough for four curling lanes and should be ready for use in October, club leaders said.
“It’s been a journey, but everybody here has believed,” said Mike Hartman, co-chairman of the group’s building committee.
Saturday’s groundbreaking came nearly a year after the City Council unanimously approved zoning for the site, which is off So-Hi drive in eastern Durham near RTP.
The facility will cost a bit more than $1 million and give the 19-year-old club its first permanent home. Until now, it’s used a succession of rented rinks, of late the Polar Ice House in Wake Forest.
Once the new rink is open, “we’ll be able to grow our membership” from the 70 or so people who now belong to the organization, said Joe Mecca, a club spokesman.
The experience of other curling clubs suggests the group could double its enrollment soon after the new rink opens. And over the long haul, it’s hoping to have 200 to 225 members, Mecca said.
“There’s other clubs that have made a similar transition in similar-size markets and seen similar growth,” he added.
Curling is an Olympic sport, interest in it peaking in years like this one that have a Winter Olympics. Played a bit like shuffleboard on ice, it originated in Scotland and is now popular in Canada.
Players slide a granite stone over the ice and use brooms to control its speed and direction. Teams get points for making the stone – which weighs about 42 pounds – stop in the middle of a target.
The club lined up financing for the project from BB&T and has hired two contractors to work on the building.
Accu-Steel Inc, based in Raleigh, will erect the building’s shell. A Pennsylvania firm, Everything Ice Inc., is in line to handle the installation of the actual rink and its cooling equipment.
The result should be “world and Olympic-caliber ice,” Hartman said, adding the club wants eventually to ask the U.S. Olympic Committee to designate the Triangle as a training ground for the sport.
It intends to host tournaments – bonspiels, in curling parlance – for visiting clubs and international teams, he said.
Locally, the club’s business plan also figures on drawing interest from corporate and university groups interested in trying out or participating regularly in the sport.
Moving from rented ice to a purpose-build facility is like “golfers going from playing in a farmer’s field to playing on Pinehurst No. 2,” Hartman said, joining Mecca in indicating that curling demands a different sort of playing surface than sports like hockey and skating.