Fans of the icy sport of curling want a bigger presence in the Triangle, and they are out to build it in Durham.
The 70-member Triangle Curling Club plans a 16,000-square foot curling rink on So Hi Drive, near Research Triangle Park, to give the club more room to play and, members hope, to grow.
“We’re kind of maxxed out where we are,” said club President David Hamilton.
Currently, the club rents space at a Wake Forest skating rink two nights a week: four and a half hours in all, which barely enough time to give the entire membership some playing time. Moreover, Hamilton said, a skating rink ice is not really suitable for curling; even if smoothed, dips and ridges remain that can interfere with play.
The club’s planned building will have four playing surfaces, called “sheets” – “Lanes, if you want to use a bowling analogy,” Hamilton said – each about 150 feet long. That can let 32 players, in eight four-person teams, compete at the same time.
Their goal is to have the rink finished before the 2014 Winter Olympics, to take advantage of curling’s exposure on television.
Olympics are “our big recruiting time,” Hamilton said. “People get intrigued by the sport: ‘Hey, that’s something I can do’ – and are motivated to come try.
Explaining the project to the Durham Planning Commission last week, facility designer Dan Jewell said the rink could be ready in time to host Olympic trials.
With the trials scheduled late this year, it’s not very likely Durham will be ready, Hamilton said, but later on “this could be used for bringing in national-level competition, including (Olympic) playdowns.”
“Clearly,” said Planning Commissioner Rickey Padgett, “what the Triangle Curling Club could bring to Durham is a whole lot better than what’s there now.”
Two members loaned the club $215,000 to buy the site, a mostly wooded 7.2 acres. The club is raising money to pay an engineer for a site plan, and “We’re in the process of approaching banks,” Hamilton said. Total cost, he said, will be “right around $1 million.”
When built, Hamilton said, the Triangle rink will be the first dedicated curling facility in the Southeast, where the sport is catching on with other clubs in Charlotte, Wilmington, Greenville, S.C. and Atlanta.
“It’ll be a ... feather in the cap for Durham,” Jewell said.
As senior planner Laura Woods described it, “Curling is an indoor sport that involves ice, a rather large roundish object, and brooms.” The goal is to land your team’s “objects” – called “stones” – closer to a goal at one end of the sheet than your opponent’s. For further explanation, see bit.ly/X7ruCU
Invented in northern Europe some time before 1540, according to the World Curling Federation ( bit.ly/bIoXqT
). Its U.S. hotbed is the upper Midwest, Hamilton said. Nationwide, there are about 165 curling clubs, 47 along the Eastern Seaboard. The southernmost club with its own facility is in Maryland, he said.
Hamilton said he and his wife and their son began playing in Maryland about 10 years ago.
“It’s certainly a family sport,” he said. “We have members in their 70s and I know of folks in Maryland area curling into their 80s,” and the Triangle club is in touch with an adaptive-sports group in Durham to introduce wheelchair curling to the region.
The Planning Commission unanimously recommended that the City Council approve the rezoning and land-use plan amendment the club needs to move ahead with its building.
“Really – curling coming to Durham. That’s really unique,” Padgett said. “You can only think that it’d be positive for Durham.”