Get your brooms out.
Curling, a sport beloved by our neighbors north of the border, is getting its close-up in Buffalo this weekend and next.
The Buffalo Curling Club will offer two-hour “Learn to Curl” sessions today through Sunday, teaching how to slide polished granite stones along a sheet of ice and use brooms to alter the surface just ahead of the moving stones.
The inaugural Buffalo Curling Club Bonspiel, or tournament, with more than 20 teams competing, will be held next Friday and March 8, along with additional lessons for newcomers. The curling will take place at RiverWorks Event Center, 333 Ganson St., across from the General Mills plant.
“There is nowhere in Buffalo to curl. You either have to go over the border, or to Rochester,” said Danielle Buchbinder, president of the Buffalo Curling Club, which will now be based at Buffalo RiverWorks. “It’s a fantastic opportunity, and come fall we plan to have a league running.”
The club dates from 1960, but dissolved in recent years before being revived recently. It’s the only curling club in Western New York, while there are four in Southern Ontario – one each in Niagara Falls and Welland and two in St. Catharines.
The Canadian men’s and women’s teams both took home gold medals in the Winter Olympics, which Canada has dominated since curling became an Olympic sport in 1998.
The curling tournament is being held on the same rinks that were assembled in a matter of weeks for last weekend’s Labatts Blue Pond Hockey Tournament.
“It’s not your traditional curling on smooth ice in a temperature-controlled building,” Buchbinder said. “It’s outdoor curling, which means we’re subjected to the elements and the ice is going to be less predictable, but it will still be fun.”
Buchbinder said she is looking forward to teaching Western New Yorkers how to curl.
“I think curling interest is hit-or-miss. There are some people who, when you say you curl, look at you like you’re nuts,” she said. “I do get occasional people who say, ‘What, you curl weights, or you curl your hair?’ Other people are extremely intrigued and can’t wait to try it.”
Buchbinder sees an opportunity to attract people to curl in Buffalo because of a shortage of rental time with the Rochester Curling Club, and because she said the Niagara Falls Curling Club saw a permanent drop in rentals after border restrictions were introduced several years ago.
“Of all the things we have talked to people about doing down there, curling has gotten the biggest reaction, the biggest buzz,” Buffalo RiverWorks co-owner Doug Swift said. “I’ve been surprised by how many people love to curl, or have wanted to try curling.”
The 2014-15 season, beginning in the fall, will offer a full season of curling, as well as hockey at the RiverWorks site, he said.
Swift said to expect major changes in the site by then, including a steel pavilion without walls and an upper-level viewing area looking out on downtown, the silos and the Buffalo River. There also will be bleachers. The parking lot, engulfed in water and mud for the pond hockey tournament, won’t be blacktopped until heavy construction is completed for forthcoming restaurants, bars and more, which could be about a year away, Swift said.
For more information about the curling tournament, including cost and limited registration – 300 people are already signed up – go to www.buffalocurlingclub.org or leave messages at 464-curl or firstname.lastname@example.org.