MAPLE CITY — Visitors to the region can add a new must-do to their itineraries: curling.
David and Theresa Gersenson unveiled Leelanau Curling Club in May. Its two ice sheets, each 147-by-6-feet, allow up to 16 curlers to practice or compete in moving a granite stone across the ice to a goal. A $20 two-hour class gets beginners in the game.
Dick Flowers’ curiosity piqued when he learned the curling facility was to open near his Maple City farmstead. In a matter of weeks, the Flowers family was wielding curling brooms and chasing 40-pound stones across its ice sheets.
“I first had the typical American reaction — what is it?” Flowers said. He investigated and soon signed up for lessons. Lessons evolved into league play as his enthusiasm for the Olympic sport grew.
“I enjoy the complexities and subtleties that influence the play,” he said.
These days Flowers shares his love of the game with wife Mary, their son, and grandson Jase. For Jase, 12, it’s more than sport. The youth earlier won the ultimate victory, a battle with leukemia. But the illness left him with conditions preventing him from playing typical school sports, like soccer and basketball. Curling took Jase off the sidelines.
“Curling isn’t easy for him, but he is competent,” Flowers said.
The game gaining new popularity dates to 16th-century Scotland where it was played on frozen ponds. It’s a way to be competitive “in the most beautiful way,” said David Gersenson.
Gersenson took up curling in 2016 following a traumatic event in his own life.
“I realized curling is the only thing I did in which I’m 100 percent immersed,” he said. “I wanted to figure out how to make that part of everyday life.”
Like Flowers, Gersenson said, most people come to the club without curling experience. The rink is open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“They learn the ins and outs of curling and are soon throwing rocks, sweeping and calling shots,” he said.
Curling is suitable for all ages and athletic levels he added. The club has welcomed people from 8 to 83 years.
“It’s a sport that builds community,” Gersenson said. “Anybody can do it. It’s a game of sportsmanship.”
Leelanau Curling Club currently has two leagues. More are expected to form after summer’s end to fill the club’s 200 league spots. The Junior League for players younger than 18 is especially near and dear to Gersenson’s heart.
“Fifteen kids are involved in the Junior League and we’re growing all the time,” he said.
Gersenson said youth benefit from the sport by learning life skills, including teamwork, how to communicate with others and sportsmanship.
A 30-foot viewing area allows parents and spectators to observe sheet action. The Leelanau Club is the only northwest Michigan facility with dedicated curling ice. Gersenson believes the Leelanau club is also the nation’s only privately-owned curling facility.
Leelanau Curling Club sits adjacent to Broomstack Kitchen and Taphouse which the Gersensons co-own with Joey and Jen Reutter. The year-round sister operations provide a 17-acre campus for play, challenge and socializing. Together they embody the couples’ motto, “Eat Drink Curl.”
“You curl and can finish with a beer,” Flowers said. “It’s not a bad plan.”
But even bigger things are on the horizon. Broomstack’s home is Maple City’s vintage, little red schoolhouse with its attached historic auditorium. Gersenson said it’s a music venue waiting to happen — a community center and meeting place poised for new life in the heart of Leelanau County.