COMMUNITY: Curling gaining in popularity

C.R. club getting attention across country

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The Cedar Rapids Curling Club is not only drawing attention in the corridor area, it also is gaining support throughout the curling community in the United States.

Because curling still is an unknown sport to most in the United States, the curling community loves to hear when there is a startup like the Cedar Rapids club.

The Cedar Rapids Curling Club started in 2012 with a small group of individuals, led by club president Lon Peper. After a lot of work getting equipment, the facility and curlers lined up, the first night of curling was July 17, 2013. There were 44 registered members at that time.

Taking advantage of the recent Winter Olympics, the club put together three open houses, attracting around 400 people earlier this year. The Cedar Rapids Curling Club now has 90 registered members and continues to gain interest.

The fact the club has doubled its membership in six months shows interest in a sport that caters to everyone. The Cedar Rapids teams consist of male and female athletes from high school age to retirees.

There are members who have back or knee issues who use a device called The Stick to deliver the rock and, as seen in the Paralympic Games, people also can curl in wheelchairs.

A main attraction for curlers are bonspiels (curling tournaments). Bonspiels bring teams from all over the country and world. The majority of bonspiels have a theme and the entry fee generally includes food that follows that theme, beverages and curling for an entire weekend.

The Cedar Rapids Curling club has represented the city in bonspiels around the United States, with each team quickly learning the buzz a new startup club brings to the curling community.

Teams want to know about the club, the support, any help they can be and about the community. While at the well-known “Last Chance” bonspiel in Hibbing, Minn. — a tournament that had 100 teams from all over the United States and Canada, with multiple Olympians, world and national championship curlers — one of the biggest topics was the startup from Cedar Rapids. Several members of the Cedar Rapids team felt like the Jamaican bobsled team with the amount of attention they were getting, including a story in the local paper.

The Cedar Rapids Curling Club is hosting its inaugural bonspiel Aug. 22-24 at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. The bonspiel is an open format (any combination of men and women) with 32 teams and will be attended by World champion and four-time Olympian Debbie McCormick. Patrick McDonald, a Paralympic curler, will bring a wheelchair team.

There are teams from Arizona, North Dakota, South Carolina, Minnesota and Wisconsin already signed up. Most clubs send at least one team if your club goes to one of their bonspiels. Our club has attended bonspiels in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, Colorado and the Waterspiel, which takes place on a cruise ship in the Caribbean (yes, ice on a cruise ship).

The Cedar Rapids Curling shares the ice time with hockey, figure skating and every other activity at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Besides the limited ice times available, the arena ice is difficult to get level and consistent speed in the amount of time the club has to prepare the ice for league play. The club’s goal is to grow the sport, build and sustain a dedicated facility. A dedicated facility would attract more curlers, annual membership costs would be much lower and the atmosphere would be more social.

With the quick expansion of members, the Cedar Rapids Curling Club is waiting to receive its official federal non-profit status to start moving forward toward a dedicated facility.

The Cedar Rapids Curling club already has generated a lot of interest and with continued corporate events, birthday parties and members talking about their experiences, the club hopes to build on its momentum.

What started out as a Friday night league with eight teams has expanded to Fridays and Sundays with a total of 18 teams.

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