PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The Presque Isle Recreation and Parks Department is working to revive curling in the Star City after a nearly 40-year hiatus.
A sport long played in Canada, Presque Isle had its own active club in the 1960s through the 1980s.
If the Presque Isle Recreation and Parks Department successfully rejuvenates curling as part of its wintertime offerings, the Aroostook club would be one of just three such groups in Maine and the only one north of Belfast. Maine’s other established groups are the Belfast Curling Club and the Portland-based Pine Tree Curling Club.
There’s a lot to the game, not only with procuring the necessary equipment but in preparing the ice, said Andrew Perry, PI Recreation and Parks program director. Though The Forum — an events venue in the city — maintains ice for hockey and skating, curling is typically played on a pebbled, or dimpled, ice surface.
It’s unclear if they can use the hockey ice for curling and are studying the logistics of how to transform ice into a curling surface and then resurface it for skating, Perry said Wednesday. Because of the vagaries of Mother Nature, he thinks it likely an indoor rink would be best.
“We’re in a locale — northern Maine and on the Canadian border — where we feel people know about curling but haven’t had the opportunity to do it due to lack of facilities. We just want to be able to represent the game,” Perry said.
Though it’s too late in the season to actually restart curling before spring, talks with other clubs and former players are giving local officials a good idea of what is involved to bring the game back.
Curling began in medieval times in Scotland, with the earliest relic of the game — an inscribed stone — dated 1511, according to sports heritage scotland. Traditionally played outdoors, the game would attract large numbers of players in tournaments called bonspiels.
Led by a skip, or captain, teams of four players work to slide stones, which weigh from 38 to 44 pounds, to a target at the other end of the ice, earning points. Players sweep the stone’s path to guide it to the target. The periods of play are called ends, during which each team throws eight stones, according to U.S. Curling Association rules.
“You get points for your stone being closest to the center, and have the opportunity to knock other teams’ stones out of the area. They utilize brooms to change the speed and direction of the stones,” Perry said.
The rec department is talking with local curling people and reaching out to a few different clubs, including the Finger Lakes Curling Club in New York, he said.
When it began in the 1960s, the Presque Isle Curling Club played at the city’s indoor skating rink in the industrial park. The building’s roof collapsed on New Year’s Day, 1969, destroying the rink. The club later reconstructed a smaller rink at the site and continued at that location until they moved to The Forum in 1980.
The largest bonspiel in the state was held at The Forum, said Kimberly Smith of the Presque Isle Historical Society. The club’s activities ended in the late 1980s because the cost of upkeep and running the club exceeded the revenue from membership, she said.
“What’s fun about it is, first of all, it’s very social,” Terry Sandusky, a former Presque Isle Curling Club skip, said. “Literally, there are no secrets because each team knows what the other is going to do as they speak on the rink.”
He said curling involved some good exercise, especially for those sweeping in front of the stones.
As the club was ending its last year in 1988, Sandusky’s team won both of the major men’s bonspiels.
“I’d be all for it,” he said. “I’d be ready to get back on the ice.”