Olympics bring bigger numbers to curling club
The Chicago Curling Club, which usually shuts down in the first week of April, may have to keep its doors open longer this year. The club has had to turn away over 100 people, interested in "Learn 2 Curl" sessions following the expected surge of interest during the Torino Winter Olympics. In fact, the influx in interest was so great, the official curling Web site www.usca.com was forced to shut down temporarily Feb. 19 due to the number of hits the site received.
While curling may be the fastest growing winter sport, most people have only limited exposure based on television coverage. Primarily for that reason, the Chicago Curling Club in Northbrook has started "Learn 2 Curl" sessions where people of any age can get started on the ice. Each two hour session includes a short video introduction to the game of curling, on-ice instruction, refreshments and a chance to play a game.
Even though curling is an ancient sport, originally brought to the United States in 1832, the national craze has only begun with the addition as a full-medal Olympics sport at the 1998 Olympic Games in Nagano. More than just a passing fad, curling has continued to hold the interest of participants and spectators alike.
Television ratings skyrocketed in 2002 when MSNBC saw its ratings quadruple with coverage of curling during the Olympics.
The exposure resulted in nationally broadcasted coverage of the 2003 U.S. National Championships and 2003 World Curling Championships.
Locally, the Chicago Curling Club was organized in 1948 and is now recognized as one of the finest facilities of its size in the country. The Northbrook center offers competitive curling as well as developmental programs for men, women, seniors and juniors. Competitive events range from a single day or evening to several weeks.
When the club was rebuilt in 1968, space was provided to house curling artifacts. The American Curling History Museum is a historically significant part of the club, housing curling stones and equipment from as late as the 1700's as well as a pin and patch collection from curlers traveling to events throughout the world. The museum also showcases trophies, books and pictures detailing the rich and storied history of the sport.
Currently, curling continues to be one of the fastest growing sports for people of all ages looking for new and exciting ways to enjoy themselves competitively and socially. Like golfers or tennis players, people who learn to curl often fall in love with the challenging sport and continue to play for decades.
While the average age of participants at the Chicago Curling Club is 48, the club's "Learn 2 Curl" sessions have made it possible for adults of any age as well as children and teenagers to get involved. The largest growing group of participants, according to club spokesman Jim Miller, is young adults.
"Younger folks are coming from other sports looking for something new," Miller said.
"This is a fun social sport that anyone can play and have fun while doing it."
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