Crookston curlers currently travel to Grand Forks.
Since it opened slightly more than three years ago, Crookston Sports Center has been home to countless youth hockey tournaments. Starting next fall, could the facility also be home to a bonspiel?
Anyone who knows anything about the sport of curling knows that a bonspiel is a fancy word for tournament. If the Park Board's discussion this week on the potential of adding curling to the list of activities that take place on the CSC's three ice sheets comes to reality, curling bonspiels could eventually be a reality.
But if any curling is to happen at all at the CSC, Parks & Recreation Director and CSC Manager Scott Riopelle stressed, enough interest needs to be expressed in curling beforehand. That's mostly because it's about a $25,000 expense for the curling rocks and other equipment needed to launch a program, he said.
"We have to make sure we'll get the use, otherwise it's not worth it," Riopelle said.
Crookston for years has had a small but dedicated group of curlers that travels to Grand Forks to compete at the Grand Forks Curling Club next to Purpur Arena. One relatively new curling enthusiast is Ward 2 Crookston City Dana Johnson. She attended the board meeting to pitch the merits of the unique sport, and helped connect Riopelle to the leaders of the Grand Forks program in order to get an idea of what it would take to launch a curling program in Crookston.
The rocks, which need to be refrigerated at a specific temperature, are by far the most expensive piece of equipment, but things like specialized brooms, sliders, hacks, super-hacks, beaver-tails, boot-masters, circle kits, mesh kits and a power scraper would also need to be bought.
Riopelle figures two or three curling rinks could fit on a single sheet of ice. Each curling rink needs to be 16 feet, 5 inches wide and 150 feet long. The ice, he explained, would need to be prepared prior to a curling event, with special droplets being sprayed on the surface of the ice and then the tops of the droplets would be shaved off.
A Wednesday evening adult curling league from November through March seems like the most logical way to introduce curling to the CSC, Parks & Recreation Supervisor Scott Butt said, since youth activities at the CSC are typically minimal on Wednesdays. Riopelle said if the sport really catches on, numerous leagues of the men, women, co-ed and youth variety are possible.
Johnson said she pays $150 a year to be a member of the Grand Forks Curling Club. The first year was half-price, she added. She travels to Grand Forks once a week to curl, but could drive over more often if she wanted to.
"I've talked to people who have said if curling was in Crookston they'd curl here," she said. "It would be nice to stay here and be able to compete against Grand Forks and others. Bonpiels would be a lot of fun here.”
Riopelle said leaders of the Grand Forks program have offered to come to Crookston and host a curling clinic. A similar offer was made by leaders of Minnesota's official curling association, he added.
Riopelle said he's not sure if Crookston could dive into a complete curling program to begin with. If interest is strong, more equipment could be added, he said, mentioning used/refurbished rocks as a less expensive option. Johnson said that in Grand Forks, businesses "sponsored" rocks and, in turn, have their business name engraved on the rocks.
Mayor Dave Genereux said it might be worth it to check into the Protecting the Legacy Fund, which served as a resource for various amenities purchased for the CSC when it was built, to see if any money is available.
"We have some time to see how much interest there is," Riopelle said. "We have time to meet with people and get more specifics."
In the meantime, Johnson extended an invitation to anyone who wants to come to the Grand Forks Curling Club to check it out for themselves. "It's pretty addictive," she said.