It was a special day for curling enthusiasts in the Northwest region Saturday, as the Northland Power Curling Centre held a grand opening.
The program was exactly what you would expect for the opening of a new curling facility, complete with bagpipes, the throwing of the ceremonial first rocks and the raising of championship banners.
The rink is host to the new Twin Rivers Curling Club, formed by members from the former Granite and Battleford curling clubs that had curled out of Battleford for the past few years. Before that, the Granite Curling Club had operated out of a facility in North Battleford that closed in 2007.
The new $8 million curling centre holds six sheets of ice and has a two-storey viewing area, which also includes a sizable lounge and dining area. For curlers used to the five sheets of ice and the more modest viewing area at the Battleford Curling Club, it was a significant step up.
The facility also has the potential to be used for conventions, trade shows and other events, particularly during months when the curling season is over.
For those involved with curling in the Battlefords, such as former Granite Curling Club president Doug Fehr, the arrival of the new facility was a day long in coming.
“It's fantastic,“ said Fehr, now a vice-president at the new Twin Rivers Curling Club. “It's exciting to have it and it's exciting to see what's happening in the future.”
Fehr said there have been “all kinds of new faces and all kinds of old familiar faces here too,” and said the reaction from curlers can be summed up in the word “wow.”
It was also a memorable moment for the title sponsor Northland Power, which donated $750,000 for naming rights. Director of Communications Boris Balan paid tribute to all those who contributed to the facility.
“The thing I am really impressed with – I am looking at the list of donors and the number of people who have participated in making this happen is just overwhelming. That shows you how important this is for the community and we're greatly happy to be part of it,” said Balan.
Fehr also had thanks to all those who contributed, “whether it was $500 or $500,000. Every one of the contributions was important,” he said. He also credited the support from the federal, municipal, provincial and First Nations governments.
The coming together of the two former curling clubs into the Twin Rivers Curling Club was celebrated at the grand opening. In keeping with the name of the club, there were “twin” rocks thrown on two ice surfaces, so both Don Christopher and Colleen Voinorosky had the honour of throwing the first rocks.
Also on hand for the ceremonial rock throwing were George Pulsford, Bill Raynor, Allen Taylor, Christy Walker, Morgan Nyholt and Troy Harms.
On hand to witness the events were dignitaries including Mayor Ian Hamilton of North Battleford, Mayor Chris Odishaw of Battleford, MLA Herb Cox, and several other officials. On hand for the Twin Rivers Curling Club was club president Gail Sack and members of the board, curling club manager Kathy McNinch and several other representatives.
The day was a special one as well for the 2012 SaskTel Provincial Tankard Champions skipped by Scott Manners.
The championship team of Manners, Tyler Lang, Ryan Deis and Mike Armstrong, along with coach Kay Montgomery, saw their championship banner raised to the roof. The team was affiliated with the Battleford Curling Club during their title run last year, and are affiliating with Twin Rivers Curling Club as they defend their provincial title this coming year.
Also recognized were members of the 2012 Juvenile Open Provincial Championship team: Cole Tenetiuk, Alison Ingram, Lisa Chambers, Morgan Hadley and coach Norman Ingram. Only a few members of that team were on hand. The skip was competing in Lloydminster that day.
Following the official ceremonies, it was time for some fun as Manners dueled Amber Holland, skip for the 2011 Canadian women's curling champions, in a “hot shots” competition.
The exhibition tested both curlers' ability to do curling plays such as a raise, a hit and roll, a double takeout and other moves. Holland jumped to an early lead and eventually prevailed over Manners.
Afterwards, both competitors joined MC Jay Crockett upstairs in the lounge and dining area for a memorable question-and-answer session on all aspects of curling.
Manners and Holland told the assorted guests they were impressed with the new facility.
“It's great to have a new curling facility in this province,” said Holland. “It just bodes well for curling in general but especially for your community.”
She noted there had been talk about a new facility in the Battlefords for a long time, going back to 16 years ago when she first started working for the Saskatchewan Curling Association.
“It's great to see the newness and hopefully that newness just continues on with bringing more people into the sport,” said Holland.
“It's a great facility you guys have here in North Battleford,” said Manners.
Manners said he had played in both the Granite and Battleford curling clubs, which he said were both great facilities. “You've got a really good ice-maker here in Wayne Cubbon,” he added, referring to the club's ice technician.
“A really big bright spot here is your beautiful curling club. Congratulations to you guys. It's great to be part of it,” said Manners.
While Oct. 27 was the date of the grand opening, the facility has been in use for several weeks. The ice surface and its distinctive green and blue rings have been hosting league play.
The facility also hosted an antique and classic car show in September just prior to the ice going in.
The curling centre was the first of the four components of the Credit Union CUPlex to achieve substantial completion status, finally hitting that target July 25. However, it is the third to officially open, after the grand openings in September of the Battlefords Co-op Aquatic Centre and the Dekker Centre for the Performing Arts.
The grand opening was set for Oct. 27 to allow time to put the ice in, and also to coincide with the start of the 2012-13 curling season.
The fourth component of the CUPlex is the field house, which is still several weeks away from completion. Contractor Scott Builders, who had the curling centre, are still working on the field house. Dec. 10 is the current completion date target.
Over the coming year, the Northland Power Curling Centre expects to host some notable events. The facility will host the Women's Northern Playdowns Jan. 10 to 13 with a number of teams to advance from those playdowns to the provincial Scotties championship. As well, plans are to hold ladies' and men's bonspiels in March.
The intention, according to Fehr, is to “start a little on the slower side this year, just to help break the building in, get familiar with how it's going to function and so on.” He foresees more provincial and Canadian competitions and probably some world and Saskatchewan tour events in future years.
People are encouraged to check www.battlefordscurling.com for more details on events coming up this coming season.