University City

University City ice rink hosts curling tour Jan. 23-25

Learn to stack, sweep and kizzle kazzle like the professionals next weekend when the World Curling Federation Olympic Celebration Tour comes to University City.

The tour is intended to promote the sport and attract participants by bringing past and future Olympians to offer clinics and answer questions. The local stop, Jan. 23-25, is one of only a dozen for the tour in the U.S.

The Charlotte Curling Association, a nonprofit in its fifth year of operation, will host the tour stop in University City. In November, the association opened its new facility on Old Statesville Road, a $1.8 million building that features a 12,000-square-foot ice rink and 5,000 additional square feet of warming and spectator rooms.

Association President Steve McKee said now is the perfect opportunity for anyone who’s ever been interested in curling to give it a try.

“They don’t need anything; just sneakers, warm clothes and comfortable pants. Not jeans: They’re not as forgiving,” said McKee. “We’ve got everything here.”

Both school-age children, grades five and up, and adults can sign up for one of the clinics, which range from beginner level to more advanced classes.

Pickup games also will take place throughout the weekend, as well as meet-and-greets with Olympic gold medalist Jamie Korab, future Olympic hopeful Jamie Sinclair and professional Canadian curling coach Abbie Darnley, who specializes in teaching the sport to children.

Curling often has been described as a mix of horseshoes, shuffleboard and chess.

McKee said he wouldn’t argue with that description. “It takes strategy,” he said of sliding the 42-pound granite rocks toward the intended goal. “When we are throwing our first shot, we are really planning where we’re going to throw our last rock, and then adapting.”

Since forming in 2014, the local association has picked up 80 members, ranging from children to senior adults.

It’s a sport, McKee said, that’s available to anyone, regardless of age or disability. Those with bad knees can use a stick to drive the rock. Even those who are wheelchair-bound can play.

“If someone wants to curl, we find a way,” McKee said. “Whatever someone’s challenge is, we can find a way around it.”

An association membership ranges between $125 and $300 per year, depending on the age and the number of family members joining.

Probably the biggest misconception curlers have to address often is the sport’s failure to get the heart pumping enough to be considered a form of exercise.

In truth, said McKee, it’s a good way to break a sweat.

“You can burn 600 to 800 calories just playing the game. You walk a couple of miles; you’re sweeping, and that’s aerobic,” he said. “It’s a lot more physically demanding than people think.”

But curling, he said, is just as much a social event as a sporting one. A longstanding postgame tradition among curlers is to share two rounds of drinks with the opposing team.

“The winners buy the losers a round, and the losers buy the winners a round,” McKee said. “You sit. You talk. You socialize. It’s very different than most sports in that way.”