Clifford Gray loves sharing a soda with his curling teammates after they stack their brooms post-match. And the Triangle Curling Club member hopes more area residents will soon join in the game and the camaraderie at the new facility the club plans to build in Durham.
The group has a contract to buy land at the northern tip of Research Triangle Park, where it intends to construct North Carolina’s first curling-dedicated sports facility, club treasurer Richard Wallace said.
Gray said the project will cost $600,000 to $800,000, and will allow the 80-member club to expand its roster.
“It’s a fun, social sport, and it’s for everybody,” he said. “The club’s mandate has been to grow the sport of curling in North Carolina. This is just the time to do it.”
Since its founding in 1995, the group has played on rented ice, working around hockey schedules and paying about $300 an hour. It currently meets at Polar Ice House in Wake Forest, where members can only play for two hours Fridays and two hours Sundays – an inconvenience Gray said has kept many from joining.
Wallace said the club has seen a spike in interest after the past two winter Olympics.
“We’re trying to be prepared for right after the next Olympics,” he said, which will be held in Russia in 2014. “We think it could bump our membership up quite a bit.”
The curlers have been searching for three or four years for an inexpensive local property that suited their needs, Gray said. Two members loaned the club the $215,000 it needs to buy the property, just off the Durham Freeway at 2310 So Hi Drive. The sale is contingent on the property being rezoned for commercial use.
The group plans to finance construction of the new facility with a mix of donations and loans from a bank and the World Curling Federation.
Members have already begun donating money toward the project, but the club is waiting to have clearer plans before contacting corporate donors, Gray said.
The goal is to break ground by August 2013, he said, and finish construction ahead of the February 2014 Olympic games.
The facility initially will have four ice sheets, Wallace said, and will be large enough to add a fifth. The club might rent out the space during ice-less summer months, and membership dues also will be used to pay off loans, Gray said. The club has annual revenues of about $55,000 now, mostly from dues.
Once it has a curling-dedicated space at its disposal, the players hope to involve community members young and old in curling, a team sport in which players slide stones across a sheet of ice toward a target area in hopes of accumulating points.
“We’re hoping to get college curling going,” Wallace said. “The Triangle area is ideally suited right between three colleges. … That will be one of the growth areas.”