[Please read our 2020 update before reading further.]
Here are some common questions we’re being asked:
Q: Why a dedicated curling facility versus curling at an arena?
A: Curling at an existing ice arena is often a very easy way for curling clubs to get started and is increasingly common within the U.S. There are two primary challenges, though, for curling:
- Ice availability – Ice rinks around the U.S. are incredibly busy with the extremely high demand for hockey leagues and for figure skating. We’re seeing this in our own region with the new Keene Ice arena that brings much-needed winter sports capacity to the Keene region. However, this high demand for hockey and skating often means that ice availability for curling is limited to off-hours when there are no hockey leagues or skating – and then only to perhaps limited times or days during a week. In the case of curling, too, you typically want at least 2 hours for a game, with additional time before and after for setup (and that’s if you only want to play one game).To build a strong curling community, and for the club to really be financially viable, you need to have frequent access to the ice.Dedicated curling clubs typically have leagues running every night of the week and during the days on weekends – and often on days during the regular week that can work for seniors or schoolchildren. This kind of frequency is typically not available in an arena arrangement. Usually curling is limited to only a couple of times (or once!) per week. This doesn’t enable the building of a strong curling community, nor does it help make a curling club financially viable.
- Ice quality – The sheet of ice used in curling is very flat and level – and very different from other kinds of ice. The actual surface has small bumps of water, but in a dedicated facility great care is taken to ensure that are are no gouges in the ice, no large bumps, no holes, etc. In an ice arena it is very difficult to achieve the same level of ice quality. Typically the arena ice is prepared using a Zamboni type of machine that smoothes out the ice. The resulting ice is fine for skating and hockey, but doesn’t work as well for curling and makes the game very difficult and unpredictable. It can be done, but it takes a great amount of extra effort and time to do so.
For those reasons we want to pursue a facility with dedicated curling ice. We certainly may use arena ice at some point but our end goal is to have a dedicated facility.
Q: Why a “4-sheet” or “5-sheet” facility instead of a smaller “2-sheet” facility?
A: Simple. The more sheets of ice you have, the more teams you can have simultaneously playing and the more programs you can offer. (One of us played at a community facility in Ottawa that had 10 sheets of ice!) Also, with more sheets you can host larger “bonspiels” (tournaments) that can bring in more people from around the region to play at your club. From a financial perspective, hosting a larger bonspiel means the event can work out better financially. It also means a larger number of people coming into the Monadnock area and staying at our hotels, eating meals, shopping, etc. In the ideal world we’d build a facility with 6-sheets to bring even higher capacity to the region.
Q: What is the relationship between this effort and that of Keene Ice?
A: There is currently no formal connection between the folks behind Keene Ice and ourselves, although we are actively talking to a couple of people involved with the effort. Most of us are also skaters and definitely welcome the new ice arena. The region needs it and we fully support the project!
As noted above, we’re more focused on dedicated curling ice right now but we might be interested in using arena ice at some point. There are places that have community centers that include both a hockey rink and a curling facility – Bedford, Quebec, is an example of that. We’re certainly interested in entertaining different options and ideas.
Q: I see your photos with Petersham Curling Club jackets. What do they think of this effort?
A: The Petersham Curling Club is a great 2-sheet facility about 45 minutes away from Keene in Petersham, MA. Several of us play there and love the facility and the outstanding people that are there. But we know that there is a great amount of interest in curling from people in this region… but who do not want to drive the 45 minutes down the winding Route 32 to get to Petersham. They think we’re crazy to drive it all the time… and maybe we are… but we want to curl! 🙂
We’ve talked about this idea with people at Petersham CC and they’ve been supportive because they, too, want to grow the number of curlers in the larger region. The more people who curl, the more people will hear about curling… and the more people will be interested in the sport in general. As we find people interested in curling, too, it may be that some of them, particularly those closer to Massachusetts, may find it more convenient to go to Petersham CC to curl. It also may be that some people wind up participating in both clubs to get the most possible curling based on schedules. In the end, more curling in the region will benefit all of us!
It also very well may be that we may start out by organizing times when we rent out the Petersham Curling Club facility and have a whole group of people from the Monadnock region car-pool down there to play. We’d then be able to build up a community of curlers from the region while playing on high quality dedicated ice.