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Sports

Charlotte Curlers Plan To Move To New Facility

The Charlotte Curling Association started off with just 25 members in 2010. Four years later, the group has over 80 members and is getting ready to open a $1.7 million arena dedicated to curling in Charlotte.

This weekend, the group held one last tournament, or in curling lingo "bonspiel," in Indian Trail, before it moves to its new home.

Forty curlers from all over the U.S. and Canada took to the ice for the final championship round on Sunday morning as a bagpiper played.

"We toast the piper because in the finest of Scottish traditions, the cheapest way to pay the piper is with Scotch," says tournament chair Carol McKee. "But because we're in North Carolina, we use moonshine."

She's overseeing the third and last tournament at the Extreme Ice Center. That's because the Charlotte Curling Association is getting ready to open a 12,000 square feet ice rink just for curling in north Charlotte in November.

"At this point, we're curling in an arena only one night a week, because that's all the time they have available to give us," McKee says. "But starting in the fall, we're going to be able to curl every day of the week, all day on the weekends …"  

Scottish Roots

Curling is a Scottish sport dating back to the 16th Century. It involves teams of four competing to push a 40-pound granite rock across the ice. One player slides the stone down the lane by its handle. As soon as the stone is launched, two players use brooms to quickly sweep and melt the ice. This helps the rock move farther and helps it move in a straight path. The goal is to get more stones into the center of what looks like a bulls-eye than your opponent. 

Daniella Nahmias first heard about curling after watching it on TV during the winter Olympics. This is her first time seeing it live. 

"On TV, you focus on one game," Nahmias says. "Here, there are five games going on at once. So trying to keep track of everything is a little more confusing. Also, without the commentators, you don't always know what the strategy is and whether or not they've made their shots. Although sometimes it's obvious when they don't make it."

But she says she likes what she sees and plans on taking beginner lessons. 

The sport attracts people of all ages. The youngest player on the ice is 14. The oldest is Wayne Remmel. He lives in Lake Norman and started curling three years ago at the age of 77. His team is called 3G Plus. That stands for three old "Geezers."

"It looks very simple, in fact it looks like a silly game," Remmel says. "But when you get out there, you find out there's a lot more to it, a lot of finesse and strategy is what it takes to win. But it's also a game -- use me as an example, I'm 80 years old -- and as long you can bend down and get up again, you can curl and have a good time."

Eric Cable is keeping score at one end of the ice rink. He explains a crucial moment in the game between four-time Olympian Debbie McCormick's team and Shot Rock – a team with members from Winnipeg, Canada and Clearwater, Florida.

"If Debbie makes her shot, she can tie it up and force an extra end, if he misses," McCormick says. "He's got the last rock, so he has the opportunity to knock her rock out of play. If he can knock just one of her rocks out, then yellow will win the game."

Debbie McCormick lost the final championship round, but she was still smiling as she left the ice. So was Kathy Thalmann, who flew in for the tournament from Chicago. 

After the game, there's no big trophy, instead you have something called broomstacking.

"After you get off the ice, you stack your brooms in a corner, and everybody sits down, winners buy losers a round, losers buy winners a round," tournament organizer Carol McKee explains. "They socialize and then the game is over."