Curling Leagues To Make Their Debut At Northwest Arena

Megan Bretz of Rehab CES competes in curling during the Battle of the Businesses at Northwest Arena. P-J photos by Jay Young

Competitors from the YMCA Battle of the Businesses gathered inside Northwest Arena on Wednesday evening for the opportunity to try something a little bit different — backyard curling.

Split up into teams of four, curlers took turns sliding large granite stones across the ice, trying to hit a center mark located inside a pair of rings on the other side of the ice.

But the fun won’t just be limited to the Battle of the Businesses, as Northwest Arena will host two different backyard curling leagues this winter, thanks to the help of league host Dot’s Gift Boutique.

The newest activity to make its way inside Northwest Arena is the brainchild of both executive director Keith Martin as well as Rex McCray, who has aided in the construction of the curling stones.

“When I came on a year ago we had to look at ways of bringing people into the arena that, like myself, can’t skate,” Martin said. “So we brought in the ice bumper cars and we did the ice bubble hockey and now we’re bringing in backyard curling. With the Battle of the Businesses there are all types of people in our community from all walks of life and we can get them to experience Northwest Arena maybe for the first time. Now they can see that there is place for them here to have a cool thing to do.”

Rex McCray, left, discusses the new curling leagues at Northwest Arena.

Martin had the idea to bring the Olympic curling that you see on television to Northwest Arena in a smaller scale that would be accessible to people of all ages.

Rather than play on the 120-foot course that is used in the Olympics, backyard curling is played on the width of a standard ice rink, 85 feet, with faceoff dots providing the center targets for each team.

Once a decision was made about using the smaller surface, there was still the issue of procuring curling stones, which can cost hundreds of dollars apiece.

For that task, Martin turned to McCray.

“My son-in-law and I had been going up to the Buffalo Curling Club, you can rent ice up there and we got hooked on it,” McCray said. “We got together with Keith and started talking about it. We went through a couple of different prototypes, came down and tried them on the ice.”

It took McCray a few different design tweaks to get the curling stones right, but judging by their performance on Wednesday evening everything should be ready to go for the upcoming winter season.

The scoring in place right now offers teams three back-and-forth turns to try and score points, six “ends” in curling terms, with points of five, three and one for each circle. The team with the most overall points took home the Battle of the Businesses curling title.

The first backyard curling league is scheduled for Wednesday nights from 5:30-6:25 p.m. and 6:30-7:25 p.m. on Wednesdays starting Oct. 16.

The cost is $280 for a team of four, with league play running for eight weeks.

There will also be another league beginning on Oct. 21, which will run on Monday’s at 5:45 and 6:45 p.m.

If teams are interested in trying backyard curling before signing up, they can come to a training session on Sept. 25, Oct. 2 or Oct. 9 from 6-8 p.m.

Teams must call ahead to reserve a spot for the training sessions by contacting Martin at 484-2624, ext. 202 or via email at keith.martin@northwestarena.com.

More information and registration forms can also be found at www.jamestownarena.com.