It’s the north metro’s coolest new summer sports league.
It offers a chance to enjoy barbecue, beers and some friendly competition minus the mosquitoes and sunburn.
The Four Seasons Curling Club in Blaine is open for business for its first summer and it’s already a hot spot. Four Seasons at Fogerty Arena is the only indoor, year-round curling club in the country with ice devoted exclusively to curling. It also includes a club room and full-service bar and restaurant overlooking the curling ice. The $4 million facility opened in January. A summer tournament over the weekend sold out, with 256 competitors coming from across the Midwest. About 200 people have signed up for summer league play. The winter league drew more than 400.
“We are pretty happy with the numbers,” said John Benton, director of curling operations, who competed in the 2010 Olympics.
It’s also creating some international buzz. China’s national curling team has booked two weeks of ice time in August. They’ll be on the ice six hours a day. U.S. trial teams are also expected to book some summer ice time.
Ingvild Skaga flew in from Oslo, Norway, for the weekend tournament. Skaga is a member of Norway’s junior national team. She was still rosy-cheeked after winning her first match.
“It’s very nice,” she said of the new club.
Skaga and her team faced off with some St. Paul curlers, including father-son team “Curling” Merlin Orvik and Clay Orvik.
They both gave the new club high marks. The Orviks don’t plan to join summer leagues but were up for a summer bonspiel, or tournament. They lost to Skaga’s team, but there were no cold shoulders. They all sat down for dinner and drinks in the club room. Merlin Orvik showed off his bicep tattoo of Merlin the magician with a curling broom and rock.
Four Season’s isn’t just for the sport’s elite and die-hard athletes.
The curling club — the only one between St. Paul and Cambridge — appears to be attracting a whole new generation of curlers. About 80 percent of league participants are new to the sport, Benton said. They’ve also hosted nearly 100 corporate events — triple what they anticipated. Companies including Medtronic and Boston Scientific book the club room for corporate meetings and luncheons and then have Benton and other curling instructors give a lesson after lunch.
St. Paul curler John Lilla played in last weekend’s tournament. He made it to U.S. nationals last year and has Olympic aspirations. He welcomes the opportunity to get some practice in during the summer months.
“It’s neat to have the opportunity to have this option in the Twin Cities,” Lilla said.