Curling has been a popular sport in Sylvan Lake for a very long time, and the recent demise of the curling rink, though timely, has left a decided void in town.
Sylvan Lake history books have little information about the recently demolished curling rink, though unnamed sources say construction began on the building in 1951 and was completed in 1953.
An article written by Bunny Virtue in the history book ‘Recollections Beyond Reflections’ states that a Doodlespiel was held in Sylvan Lake in March 1952, and was made up of nine rinks from Sylvan Lake, Sundre, Rocky Mountain House and Stettler.
The Jim Turner rink from Sundre won the event, with the George Rozier rink from Sylvan Lake coming in second.
Virtue’s article states that in 1953 two Geoprosco crews (who were not working in the field) worked under the supervision of George Sestrap and Gordon MacGregor to put a new roof on the curling rink.
Bev Jones recalls curling as a teenager in the original two-sheet curling rink by the outdoor skating rink. The new rink had four sheets and “was exciting” to curl on, she said.
Jones was married to Darold in 1955 and the couple moved away for a few years.
“I had little kids then and I took a long break from curling,” she said. “When I started to curl again it was a whole new game — the broom, the equipment, everything was different. But it was still a really good game.”
Lorie Johanson curled in Sylvan Lake for 27 years. She and her husband Melvin and their two children all curled in the old rink, as did Melvin’s parents.
Johanson, who now curls in Eckville with a team from Sylvan Lake, said she understands the reasons the rink had to be demolished, but feels the facility had lots of sentimental value for many who had curled there over the years.
“I think it is harder on the people who started there,” she said.
Curling in a league in Eckville has worked out well, she added.
“It’s been good. There are only eight teams so you get to know everyone.”
For Lesley Hill, a longtime Sylvan Lake curler, tearing down the old rink to make way for the new one was a timely step.
“It was a positive step. We couldn’t curl on it (the old rink) anyway,” she said.
Hill took curling lessons at the old rink in Sylvan Lake in 1992 and curled in that facility until it closed last February.
“It was a great place to learn to curl,” she said.
Hill has lots of fond memories of her time curling in Sylvan Lake, and was a key organizer of last year’s Tournament of Hearts. She noted the event was hugely successful and the community supportive.
Hill now curls in Red Deer, and also in Bentley in a mixed league with her husband Jim and Gerald and Jill Bystrom. Curling in both places is working out well, she feels.
“Bentley has really laid out the red carpet for us Sylvan curlers,” she said.
Local curlers are pleased that Joel Powlesland, the former ice maker for Sylvan Lake Curling Club, has been hired by Bentley Curling Club, she added.
“The ice is really good in Bentley,” she said. “Joel is an excellent ice maker.”
Bruce Cartwright, vice chairman of the Sylvan Lake curling club is now curling in Bentley and Lacombe.
“Both places are good with a good bunch of people,” he said.
Cartwright sits on the design committee for the new multiplex building planned for Sylvan Lake.
He said the proposed curling rink to be included in the NexSource Centre will include five sheets of curling ice, a viewing area with a lounge upstairs for hockey and curling, and a viewing area in the lobby as well.
New modern washrooms and change rooms and a curling ice surface large enough to be converted to an NHL-sized hockey rink are also part of the conceptual plans.
“We need to think longterm here,” he said. “The old curling rink lasted for a very long time and we don’t want to build something now that will last only a short time.”
Hill said a new facility built within the new proposed multiplex is the best way to go.
“It’s stupid to have a standalone facility. No one can afford that anymore.”
Hill is convinced curlers will come back to Sylvan Lake once the new facility is built.
“My belief is the majority will come back to support our town,” she said.
“We hope to get everyone back,” he said, “plus some new ones.”
Jones is one of the former who will make a return upon the new facility’s completion.
“I hope to curl at least one game in the new facility,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
The curling club has donated $100,000 to NexSource Centre and also turned over a $125,000 government grant which was to be used for renovations to the old building.
The NexSource Centre could be completed by the fall of 2016.