Where there will one day soon be ice, there is only red clay. The walls and beams are stacked by the side of the road, near the sign that for more than a year has promised a home for curling in the Triangle. It is only months away.
On a gray Monday morning, earthmovers paw at the soil just outside of Research Triangle Park. The layout of what will be one of the Southeast’s first dedicated curling facilities is now clearly visible. In less than a month, the building will be erected. By December, four long, skinny sheets of pebbled ice should be ready for play, completing a vision that dates back nearly a decade.
“After about a year of just looking at plans on paper and trying to figure out where all the money’s going to come from, it is pretty satisfying to see a couple pieces of construction equipment going,” Triangle Curling Club president Chris Jaun said Monday, his hiking boots caked with mud from his frequent visits to the site from his nearby IBM office.
The club had been waiting until membership growth justified a new facility, but realized that the surges of popularity during the Olympics would inevitably fade because of the limited ice time available at the Polar Ice House in Wake Forest. To convert interest into participation, this privately funded, $1.4 million facility had to come first.
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So a few members found and bought the land in May 2013, on So-Hi Drive in Durham, just off the Durham Freeway at the Ellis Road exit, convenient to all corners of the Triangle. Another member provided pro bono legal services. Money was raised. Donations solicited. Loans secured.
A house on the land was sold (it sat on steel beams Monday, awaiting a tow elsewhere), as were three acres of the seven-acre parcel, to a rock-climbing club that plans to build a five-story indoor facility.
“We joked about putting a sign by the driveway that says, ‘Climb rocks this way, throw rocks that way,’ ” Jaun said.
Another curling rink is being built in Charlotte as the sport – essentially shuffleboard on ice played with giant granite stones – continues to capitalize on its exposure in the Winter Olympics, where it has become a cult staple on NBC’s cable coverage. Clubs have sprouted in Wilmington, Richmond, Va., Atlanta and Greenville, S.C., but the two rinks in North Carolina will be the first south of Maryland.
The Triangle Curling Club was founded in 1995 and has grown to about 80 members who play regularly, but Jaun believes many more would participate at times more convenient than Friday night and Sunday afternoon and in a location more central than Wake Forest. In Year 1 in the new building, the club expects to grow to 120 members. That’s the theory, anyway: If you build it, they will curl.
“We can be flexible with it,” Jaun said. “We can do what we need to do to one, serve our membership and two, meet the growing interest in the sport.”
Just as club members have contributed to the planning and construction process, everything from landscaping to interior decorating will be done by club volunteers. Membership dues and league fees for using the 14,000 square foot facility have yet to be set, but the club paid extra to make sure the ice sheet would be square and level enough to meet Olympic standards.
Once it’s complete, the possibilities are limitless: leagues for all abilities from novice to expert, collegiate curling, tournaments – bonspiels – both regional and national, even USA Curling events.
For the moment, all that’s there is an outline, etched in the red clay, of where the building itself will be.
“They tell us this is the fast part now,” Jaun said.
After almost 20 years on borrowed ice, it won’t be much longer before Triangle curlers have a home of their own.