Blaine curling site gets positive backing

by Tim Hennagir
Life Editor

Twin Cities area and national curling representatives have responded favorably to news about a curling facility being added to Blaine’s Fogerty Arena.

Kent Beadle, president of the Minnesota Curling Association and a vice president with the U.S. Curling Association, recently told ABC Newspapers that a new six-sheet facility in the Twin Cities area would be “extraordinarily helpful in meeting demand for curling ice that is currently unavailable.”

In an e-mail, Beadle said the St. Paul Curling Club has been effectively at maximum capacity for evening draws since shortly after the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, he said.

“In order to try and meet the additional demand, they over-subscribed each draw by four teams and instituted a system of byes that forced teams to take off up to four weeks each year,” he said.

The distance between Blaine and the St. Paul Curling Club is also an impediment for people in the northwest suburbs.

“The growth in popularity of the sport makes me confident that a six-sheet facility in Blaine can be successful,” he wrote.

A new club in the Twin Cities would be important to the U.S. Curling Association and the Minnesota Curling Association, as it would become another potential venue for championship events, Beadle said.

Bob Hedstrom, current president of the St. Paul Curling Club, confirmed in a recent e-mail that St. Paul has operated at full capacity for several years.

“Each year, we’ve  had to turn dozens of prospective curling members away because we have no available time slots to include them in our leagues,” he said.

“Last year we rented the Biff Adams Arena from Ramsey County and almost overnight. we had 250 curlers playing there.”

This year, Hedstrom said the facility is operating under its own autonomy and is serving about 300 members.

According to Hedstrom, the St. Paul Curling Club also has operated a spring league for the past several years for six weeks following its regular season, which runs from mid-April through June. That league is also operating at nearly full capacity.

“I’ve been aware of the Blaine project for about three years,” Hedstrom said. “They have been in communication with St. Paul for guidance as they have pursued getting their facility off the ground.”

John Benton, a U.S. curling team national coach and 2010 Winter Olympics participant, has served in a similar capacity.

In an e-mail, Benton said he was introduced to Fogerty Arena Manager Mark Clasen three years ago by Olympic teammate John Shuster, who lives in Duluth.

“Since then, I’ve worked with Mark to keep this dream alive and have had many discussions with them about options and possibilities for the facility,” he said.

While nothing has been confirmed as final with regard to the Fogerty curling facility development, Benton said the facility could be used for national team camps and events.

“Of particular interest is the fact the Blaine facility would open for curling 365 days per year, which is rare for a curling facility,” he said.

This would allow national program teams access to top quality curling ice in a centrally located, international travel hub and a Top 5 media market in the United States, Benton said.

Mark Willmert, president of the Minneapolis-based Twin Cities Curling Association, has been involved in new curling facility development in the Twin Cities for the past 10 years.

“I’ve been hearing about Fogerty for several years,” he said. “I’ve met with the board and Mark Clasen. I think with the right marketing and fee structure, curling in Blaine swill catch on quickly. Once you try it, you get hooked. You don’t want to get off the ice.”

Tim Hennagir is at [email protected]