Blaine is now home to the only official U.S. Olympic training site in Minnesota.
The Four Seasons Curling Club at Fogerty Arena joins 17 other official U.S. Olympic training sites across the country.
“It’s the first time curling has had the designation ever. We lobbied for the designation,” said John Benton, Fogerty’s director of curling operations and a former Olympian. “We had a lot of local support from the community. It’s a pretty special thing.”
Fogerty is already the home to Team USA Curling, the national governing body for the Olympic sport. It’s one of a few year-round curling locations in the country.
Since Four Seasons opened in January 2013, it has attracted national teams from around the world, including China and Scotland. NBCSports also broadcast from Blaine as part of its “Curling Night in America” programming last winter.
The training site designation will draw even more elite athletes to the Twin Cities, Benton said.
“National team athletes move or go to school here so they can be close to the training site,” he said.
He said about 35 Olympic curling hopefuls train at Fogerty.
The nonprofit arena also is home to Blaine and Spring Lake Park Youth Hockey and the two cities’ high school teams. Fogerty’s board built the curling center, in part, to generate revenue to pay for a new refrigeration unit for the two hockey rinks.
Fogerty’s hockey and curling operations have a $1.6 million annual operating budget. The curling operations cover about 40 percent of that, keeping ice costs lower for youth hockey. Fogerty general manager Rob Hall estimates youth programs pay $30 to $40 less per hour of ice compared with other rinks.
The curling arena is also popular with local amateurs. From fall to spring, Four Seasons runs two or three leagues a night, seven days a week. In the summer, it hosts one league a night.
“We are almost full as far as fall and winter leagues,” Benton said. “We are right at 700 members, which is unbelievable” for2½ years of operation.
The facility also includes a restaurant overlooking the curling ice and corporate banquet rooms.
“Our corporate business is unbelievable,” Benton said. The site has even hosted a few weddings.
The curling club is outpacing its membership targets by 200, according to Hall.
In its first two years, Four Seasons booked 435 corporate events, well above the 20 it had hoped to book annually.
Hall is hopeful the Olympic designation could attract some corporate endorsements. The next Winter Olympics will take place in 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“Everything with this has happened much quicker than we anticipated,” he said.
“It’s all just snowballed in the right direction for us.”