Olympic Curling Watch Party at Big Grove
Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 7:00 p.m., Big Grove Brewery
As the 2022 Winter Olympics draw to a close, one of the most popular sports in the Games — curling — is drawing to a close as well. But its return the international spotlight has once again launched a curling craze, sweeping many Americans off their couches and onto the ice.
Curling originated in 14th century Scotland (thus the bagpipes symphony played before games in Beijing), but has only been a medaled sport at the Olympics since 1998. Players compete to slide (or “throw”) heavy granite stones ranging from 38 to 44 pounds across a field of specially treated ice towards a target of four concentric circles, assisted by teammates with brooms that brush the ice to reduce or increase friction and guide the stone to its target. After both teams throw eight stones each, the team with stones sitting closer to the center circle than their opponent’s, scores points. There are 10 of these rounds, or “ends,” in each Olympic team match. While the premise is fairly simple, curling requires a great deal of nuance and strategy.
A loss to the powerhouse Switzerland team dropped the U.S. women’s curling team out of medal contention Wednesday. And after Italy beat the United States men’s team, the defending gold medalists are on tentative territory. They must now beat Denmark if they still want a shot at the podium.
The Cedar Rapids Curling Club is partnering with Big Grove Brewery to host a watch party of the U.S.-Denmark match Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Iowa City Big Grove.
The curling club has been playing in Cedar Rapids since 2012, and will head into its 10th season this September.
“We currently have about 65 members,” said Emily Nelson, marketing director for the Curling Club. “Before COVID, we were up over 80 [members] … We really want to grow, because ultimately our goal would be to have a dedicated facility for curling.”
The ImOn Ice Arena, where the club currently plays, was severely damaged in 2020 due to the derecho. Repair costs rose to over $5 million and the arena didn’t reopen until October 2021.
As one of only two curling clubs in Iowa, the Cedar Rapids Curling Club attracts enthusiasts from a wide area. Player Mark White drives an hour and a half from Waterloo to play. He says he goes for “the strategy involved, the competition, I guess the camaraderie.”
Currently, the Cedar Rapids Curling Club is using the off-season to teach community members how to curl, and the lessons are turning out to be popular. The session on Feb. 15 was sold out, with over 40 new curlers out on the ice, and the next two sessions are sold out as well. Players don’t have to purchase expensive equipment to play, including the heavy specialty stones, although most of the longer-term curlers prefer to purchase their own brooms and custom shoes designed to slide on ice.
The current curling craze isn’t a surprise to club organizers. Nelson credits the sport’s inclusive nature.
“You can make curling what you want it to be. If you have a disability — we don’t currently have any wheelchair curlers, but we have,” she said. “It’s a great lifelong sport. We’ve had curlers as young as 10, all the way up in their 80s. So, you can do this a long time.”
“If you can safely be on the ice, we’ll find a way for you to curl.”
The Cedar Rapids Curling Club is offering learn-to-curl sessions through February and March, though spots are selling quickly. For more information, go to cedarrapidscurling.com.