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Donor opens way for curling center here

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news Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

While temperatures at the fair made for a first day with sizzle, some fairgoers were thinking about ice. 

Not cubes, but sheets of ice. 

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The Brainerd Lakes Curling Association met with the Crow Wing County Fair Board Monday and received approval for its building concept to construct a curling facility on the fairgrounds. Tuesday afternoon, the curling association learned it received a generous donation from Fran Holden to move the building process forward. 

The concept plan has been talked about for years with a final puzzle piece coming with the donation.

This week a building plan — with architectural drawing, layouts and blueprints — is being publicly unveiled at the curling association’s fair booth. The association went out for bids, which are being finalized. Construction is expected this fall with the curling facility opening in January. 

The curling association declined to reveal the amount of the donation, but said it was enough to allow the construction of the facility, which includes four sheets of curling ice, restroom facilities and a heated observation area.

Andy Miles, curling association board chairperson, said the facility provides an opportunity to be involved across a wide range of ages and abilities.

“It has been a long process,” Miles said, adding the goal was always to bring curling to the community and the group was pleased to do that after all the work of association members and the fair board.

Building the dedicated curling facility opens up opportunities to host curling tournaments in Brainerd. Al Rogers, acting volunteer project manager, said the initial plan to construct the building with restaurant and bar was scaled back. The association plans to continue fundraising efforts to eventually add a restaurant and bar to the curling facility. 

“We’re gong to be really working on a five-year plan to develop curling in the Brainerd lakes community,” Rogers said.

Plans include developing high school-age curling and growing the program here at all age levels. Rogers said curling offers an indoor winter activity for people whether they are age 8 or 80.

The Brainerd Lakes Curling Association was formed in 2006 and now has roughly 100 members. In 2009, the Crow Wing County Board as landowners, gave approval allowing the fair association to enter a sublease with the Brainerd Lakes Curling Association.

Originally, the curling association building was proposed by the south gates where the Monster Ears are sold. But Rogers said the updated plan has moved the building, still by the south gate, but closer to the highway so no other fair buildings would need to be moved to make way for the curling facility.

Plans for the curling facility call for a 75 feet by 200 feet building. Having privately owned buildings on the fairgrounds isn’t new. For example, the Elks own the group’s food booth building. In the winter, the curling facility will be used by the club. In the summer, the fair association will be able to use it for summer events, such as a sportsman show. 

Without a dedicated facility for curling, the club has been  hindered by limited available ice time, either at the Hallett Community Center in Crosby or the Brainerd Area Civic Center.

Rogers said it’s hard make four hours of ice time once a week work and the dedicated curling facility will provide seven days of ice time. The association would like to hear from community members on what types of leagues people are interested in — youth, mixed, men, women — and from businesses interested in starting a league. 

Rogers said: “It’s a nice sport and it would really go well in the community.”

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852.

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