TRAVERSE CITY — Don Piche knows the cyclical nature of public interest in a niche sport such as curling.
He saw it in 2018 when the Traverse City Curling Club experienced a big increase in membership following the Winter Olympics. He expects the same again this year, and the club is ready.
The Beijing Winter Olympic Games go from Feb. 4-20, and the TCCC hosts a “Learn to Curl” event at Centre Ice Arena right in the middle of that. The Feb. 12 open house from 5-7 p.m. takes place the same day the United States is scheduled to face Norway.
The event is limited to 175 participants, who need to pre-register at tccurling.org. The cost is $15, and the event concentrates on the process of throwing the rock as an introduction, rather than sweeping.
“We just want to get people out there that want to curl and teach more people who want to learn,” Piche said. “Just to get out there and throw a rock and feel what it’s like to be an Olympian.”
Also during the Olympics, the club will host watch parties on select nights at area breweries and pubs, with club members on hand to answer questions about the sport.
“People always ask, ‘Why are they yelling? What are they saying?’” said Piche, the club’s founder. “These are the same questions I asked when I started.”
U.S. Olympic team member John Landsteiner may visit Traverse City again for the club’s Cherry Bombspiel tournament April 22-24 at Centre Ice.
Last year’s Bombspiel was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many teams entered a year ago simply moved their registration to 2022, while the few open spots sold out in under a minute when registration opened up, Piche said.
The club’s planned new $7 million Center of Excellence for Curling in the United States on a 4.3-acre plot of land at the Hammond Industrial Center stalled for the time being, as rising steel prices made the cost of building unworkable. Piche said the club still hopes to find an existing building to add curling-specific ice in Traverse City until the Birmley Road property can be developed.
The club has been around for seven years and is up to 112 paid members, including 35 new ones in 2021.