Curling club gets support for new ice rink

Feb. 12, 2013 @ 06:52 PM

A project that would give the sport of curling a new home in Durham got an endorsement Tuesday night from the Durham Planning Commission.

Commission members voted 10-0 to urge the City Council to zone 7.2 acres off So Hi Drive near RTP so the Triangle Curling Club can build a 16,000-square-foot ice rink there.

“Durham is a unique place. We’re a melting pot of everything and anything,” commission member Rickey Padgett said as he argued for approval. “I see no reason not to promote that.”

Curling, as landscape architect Dan Jewell noted, is a sport that attains worldwide prominence every four years when the Winter Olympics roll around.

In crude terms, it’s like shuffleboard on ice. Teams compete by sliding what looks like and is called a rock across the ice, aiming to stop it in a target. Players control the rock’s path by using brooms to sweep the ice in front of it.

The sport originated in Scotland and is now popular in Canada. In recent years it’s featured prominently in the quadrennial telecasts of the Winter Olympics, adding to its exposure.

The Triangle Curling Club is now based in Wake County, where it uses rinks normally devoted to skating and hockey.

But Jewell noted that rink-sharing isn’t an ideal situation, as curling requires ice that isn’t as smooth as the better-known winter sports. The surface of a curling rink is actually pebbled slightly so the rock can slide more easily.

The club is asking the City Council for industrial zoning, which accommodates most any use. Jewell said streams and other problems with the site limit its development potential.

The zoning did draw a bit of skepticism from commission member Rebecca Winders, who noted that the application didn’t include a “development plan” to which the club or city officials could attach conditions.

Durham law doesn’t require an application to include a development plan, but projects without one often get a wary reception as the applicant isn’t bound to build what it has talked about.

But in this case, Assistant Planning Director Pat Young said, the site’s internal problems and proximity to RTP limit the potential fallout if the curling club’s plan goes south.

Winders despite her questions joined the majority recommending council approval of the rezoning. Padgett made it clear he didn’t see any reason to fret.

“I try not to look at every project as a monster in every closet, because I don't think there’s a monster in every closet,” he said.