Curling Club enjoys uniqueness of sport
By Kurt J. Kolka
LEWISTON – Volunteers are finishing up preparing the ice sheets inside the Lewiston Curling Club for another season of games.
Randy Pyle, a member since 1971, is overseeing the project.
“My father-in-law bought me a membership here right after we got married. That got me interested and I've been here ever since,” recalls Pyle.
Currently, Pyle is the longest-serving member of the club.
The game of curling is played with teams of four people. Each player tosses two stones from one end of the building to the other in an attempt to score points for their team. Points are made by getting stones closest to the center of target in the ice. The center is referred to as the button.
Each team can also attempt to knock the other team's stones farther away from the target, adding points of their own and causing their opponent to lose points.
While one team member tosses a stone, two other members sweep the ice in front of the stone to guide the stone to the target. The fourth player stands down by the target with a broom to mark the location of the button and guide his teammates.
The Lewiston team not only plays teams from around the state, but around the country. They even have an international day where eight teams from Canada come down and play.
There are uniquenesses to the ice in this this sport which make it different than the ice rinks used for hockey or ice skating. Droplets of water are scattered across the ice which cause the stones to curl or deviate from a straight path. That is why the sweepers are essential to the game.
“There's a science to making the sheet,” notes Pyle. “I actually had to go to school for it. I have a certificate from the United States Curling Association.
“After every game, we come in and the ice gets scraped the ice and re-pebbled. Then we have what is called a nipper. It's a small push-behind machine with three blades on it. That goes along and scrapes off just the top of the pebble.”
The game began in Scotland, where the stones used continue to come from. Only two companies in the United States grind the stones down for use for curling.
A retired advertising executive named Harold Aarons brought the sport to Lewiston in 1960 when he came up to live there in 1960. He had been a member of the Detroit Curling Club and wanted to introduce the sport in Northern Michigan.
As the story goes, Aarons met up with Glen Jane, a local well-drilling contractor, who created a skating rink annually at his property on Buttles Road. Aarons talked Jane into creating a place for curling on the rink also. While the rink did not allow for the perfect surface, it did supply a place for the curling club to begin.
Soon the sport caught on however and in 1963, through the work of volunteers, the curling club building welcomed its first games. Since then, the building has been added to and modernized over the years.
Their next step, according to Pyle, is to put in a cement floor. The sheet currently sits on dirt and is kept cold by a generator. Cement would the cold better and cut down on utility bills.
The only thing holding the club back from getting the cement floor installed is the price tag which goes with it. The estimated price tag is around $100,000. However, with the help of volunteers, Pyle believes they can get it done for about a third of that price.
Even without a cement floor for now, the Curling Club continues to prepare for the new season which begins in early January and continues into April.
For more information on the Lewiston Curling Club, call them in the evenings at (989) 786-3888.