Christine McMakin believes her path to the Olympic podium leads through Blaine.

In July, the 16-year-old champion curler, along with her mother, uprooted their lives in Maryland and moved to Minnesota to practice and train at the Four Seasons Curling Club at Fogerty Arena.

The U.S. Olympic Committee designated the Blaine club as an official U.S. Olympic training site this summer. It is the only official Olympic training site in Minnesota, and one of only 18 across the country for all sports. It is also the only curling club in the nation with year-round ice.

"Becoming an official Olympic training center was a driving force for moving here," said McMakin, a member of USA Curling's high-performance junior women's team. She spends nearly 40 hours a week competing and training on and off the ice.

She will be a junior at White Bear Lake Area High School this fall, and figures she may miss as much as a month of school to compete in curling events.

"This is an opportunity to play this sport at the highest level, including world competition and potentially the Olympics in the future," said her mother, Sandra McMakin.

McMakin is among a wave of elite athletes and Olympic hopefuls being drawn to Minnesota by the Blaine curling club. The club, which is operated by a private nonprofit, is also the national training center for USA Curling, the national governing body for the Olympic sport.

"Athletes move or go to school here so they can be close to the training site," said John Benton, Fogerty's director of curling operations and a former Olympian. "We are going to be the place to provide the opportunity for athletes chasing the Olympic dream."

Benton and his staff spent a year lobbying for the designation and meeting requirements. "We had overwhelming support from the community," he said. "It's a pretty special thing."

The Olympic moniker further enhances the northern suburb's reputation as a sports hub. Blaine is also home to the National Sports Center, an expansive network of more than 60 soccer fields and ice rinks that draw 4 million visitors a year.

"We try to create a good place to live," said Blaine Mayor Tom Ryan. "If we have a local Olympian that comes out of this, it will be awesome."

Last weekend, Ryan joined Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Republican Rep. Tom Emmer and Fogerty Arena alumnus David Backes, now captain of the NHL's St. Louis Blues, to laud the Olympic designation.

A worldwide draw

The governing board for the private nonprofit Fogerty Arena built the curling center, in part, to generate revenue to pay for a new refrigeration unit for the two hockey rinks.

Fogerty is home to Blaine and Spring Lake Park Youth Hockey and the two cities' high school teams.

Since opening in 2013, the curling club has attracted teams from around the world, including China, Israel and Scotland. NBC Sports also broadcast from Blaine for its "Curling Night in America" programming last winter.

Twins Sarah and Taylor Anderson recently moved from Philadelphia to Minnesota to prepare for world competition with their sights set on the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and 2022 in Beijing.

The twins, who are students at the University of Minnesota, are, like McMakin, members of USA Curling's high-performance junior women's team.

"I only looked at schools in Minnesota because I wanted to be closer to competitive curling," said Sarah Anderson.

The sophomores juggle a training schedule that includes almost daily practice, league play and international tournaments. They are traveling to New Zealand this week to compete.

Off-ice conditioning includes sprinting, interval running and weightlifting. The curlers meet with a sports psychologist to discuss mental strength and strategy.

"It's nice when we are so close and local," Sarah Anderson said.

Shannon Prather • 612-673-4804