After becoming the national training center for USA Curling last year, Four Seasons Curling Club in Blaine set its sights on an ambitious goal: being named a U.S. Olympic training site. Monday, the United States Olympic Committee granted that status, making the club the first Minnesota sports facility to earn that distinction.
Four Seasons will join an elite group of 18 U.S. Olympic training sites, which host major national and international events — including the Olympic Trials — and serve as home base for preparing and developing Olympic athletes. Club officials worked for nearly a year to win approval, with local and state government officials lending support.
The designation puts Four Seasons in the company of well-known facilities such as the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas (gymnastics), Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee (speedskating) and Northern Michigan University (wrestling and weightlifting) as U.S. Olympic training sites.
The club is in Blaine’s Fogarty Arena, and both the curling center and the arena’s dryland training facility are considered part of the training site. John Benton, the club’s director of curling operations, said the USOC does not provide financial support. But the partnership grants access to USOC resources and confers prestige, which will help the club attract sponsors, host world-class events and create the best possible training environment for elite athletes and coaches.
“This opens a lot of doors for us,’’ said Benton, a 2010 Olympian. “It brings so much credibility. We are through the roof with excitement.”
Four Seasons, which opened in 2013, is the only curling facility in the U.S. with year-round ice. It was named USA Curling’s national training center last July and has hosted national and international events, as well as training and selection camps for elite U.S. curlers.
Top athletes from other countries, including China, also have come to Blaine to train at Four Seasons.
As home to the National Sports Center, Blaine has a long history of hosting sports events. Its experience and engagement with Olympic sports, its proximity to a major airport and its support of athletes and healthy lifestyles helped win the bid. The quality of the Four Seasons facility and its commitment to developing the sport also played a role.
“[Four Seasons’] model aligns perfectly with our mission to enhance sport participation and create avenues for American athletes to achieve Olympic success,’’ said Alicia McConnell, who visited Four Seasons last fall in her role as the USOC’s director of training sites and community partnerships. “We look forward to a fruitful relationship with the city of Blaine and [Four Seasons].”