The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang have whipped the local curling scene into a frenzy. With the attention from the winter games, the Bucks County Curling Club (BCCC) has sold out introductory classes and seen a sharp uptick in general interest.
Kevin Stayer, the president of the BCCC, first became interested in curling in the mid-1970’s, when he saw it on the Wide World of Sports. Time washed away the interest until about 15 years ago, when Stayer and his co-worker decided to go to a curling club in Chester County. They eventually moved to the Philadelphia Curling Club. The Philadelphia club grew beyond its means and members kicked around ideas. Eventually, Stayer found an arena near his home outside of Doylestown. Before they could get the ball rolling, they discovered that the arena was being sold.
Stayer and his wife bought the arena in Warminster and turned the hockey ice into a curling arena.
“We borrowed some old stones that Philly had in their basement,” Stayer said, adding the group cobbled together the rest of the equipment needed to curl.
And so, in 2010, the BCCC was founded. Five years later, in 2015, the club began offering dedicated curling ice.
The club offers instructional leagues, regular leagues and “Discover Curling” experiences, where prospective curlers can learn about the sport and how it is played.
“We’re extremely welcoming to newcomers,” Stayer said.
The club goes a long way to honoring the social roots of the sport. After each match, a practice known as “stacking the brooms” takes place, where winners and losers buy each other drinks and commiserate.
The coming of the Winter Olympics means that interest in curling was going to jump. Stayer and the other club officials have been preparing for the influx that has caused weekend classes to sell out through the end of March, he said.
The attention on the ice sport isn’t just in Bucks County. Curling clubs around the world have been upticks in recent years as TV viewership has trended upward during the Olympics.
“Whether you’re good or bad, it is just fun to come out and throw stone,” Stayer said.
Since he has gotten involved in curling, it has taken its place in Stayer’s heart as his favorite hobby. Speaking fondly of his time at the club, Stayer thinks about the friends he has met at the club and the relationships curling helps to foster.
“The expectation of fair play is very serious but nobody takes the game to seriously. In every game you are friendly with your opponent and appreciate when they make a challenging shot. While it is a team sport I feel like when I am playing it is more about challenging myself to improve and play well than it is about beating my opponent,” said Bill Laufer, a manager of the club.
Laufer got involved with curling after he took his son to ice skating lessons at the Bucks County Ice Center and noticed the curling houses on the ice. Shortly later, Laufer was totally immersed in the culture.
“I found that playing was even more fascinating and addicting than watching it on TV. The people involved in curling are very special people. So many people see it on TV and think about trying but the kind of people that jump right into a league and start playing have an amazing mix of independence and adventurousness that makes them the most fun people you will ever meet,” Laufer said.
Curling is a great sports for kids as well, Laufer explained.
“There are no screaming coaches or parents. The kids play for the fun of the game. It is a very supportive environment where every player challenges the other be their best,” he said.
“You should definitely try it if you’re even thinking about it,” Stayer said.