By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
After the bagpipes played and shots of Scotch were gulped down, players of the “quirky” sport of curling dedicated their new home in Wood County on Saturday.
“It’s been a dream for a long, long time,” said Ed Glowacki, a long-time member of the Bowling Green Curling Club. “I’m going to ask a lot of people to pinch me today.”
The new Black Swamp Curling Center takes the place of the ice sheets at Bowling Green State University Ice Arena, which the curling club had to share with several other skating groups. The new facility, which has four sheets of ice just for curling, opened one year shy of the curling club’s 50th year.
“Dreams do come true,” said Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards, who shares a Scottish background with the sport of curling. “You have demonstrated from the very beginning determination and true grit.”
Edwards shared a Scottish blessing with the curlers, spoken first in Gaelic form then in English.
“Long may your chimney smoke,” he said.
The new curling center is located at 19901 N. Dixie Highway, formerly home to Perry House Furniture and an Amish furniture store.
“Actually, my dining room table was right here,” Shannon Orr, past president of the curling club, said as she pointed toward the ice. “Now it’s sheet A.”
As seems fitting, the initial sketches for a new curling center were scrawled on a bar napkin, well, several bar napkins. A long-held tradition in the gentlemanly sport of curling is that the winners buy the losers a drink.
So it was after one of those games that some of the curling club members started scribbling out ideas for a new curling center, said Scott Helle, a former president of the club.
They knew it was a tremendous challenge, but they also knew their fellow curlers were a devoted crew.
“My dad always told me, you learn who your true friends are when you start a concrete project and a roofing project,” Helle said.
They learned the curling club was full of true friends.
“That’s really what curling is about,” Helle said. “It’s a little bit about the ice, the rocks, the brooms,” but primarily it’s about the family bonded by the centuries old sport.
The former furniture store was transformed into a curling facility completely by volunteers.
“That is an amazing testament to curling volunteers,” Orr said.
The transformation was helped with a few grants, plus corporate and individual donations. “This is truly a community endeavor,” Orr said.
Current curling club president Brian Zimmerman described the dedication.
“We went from concrete, mold and dust to some pretty good looking sheets” of ice, he said. “We came here with a passion for curling. This is yours.”
The sport of curling began in the 16th century, Glowacki said.
“We figure it’s what the crazy Scots did when they couldn’t golf anymore,” he said.
The sport has a way of turning friends into family, said Glowacki, who has been curling with the club for 33 years.
“Curling is a lot more than curling. It’s a family,” he said.
As proof of curling getting into the blood, at least three charter members who started the Bowling Green Curling Club 50 years ago were present at Saturday’s dedication.
The local club is known throughout the nation and even overseas, Glowacki said.
“As you talk to curlers around the U.S., everybody knows Bowling Green,” he said. And pins from the local club adorn curling walls in Scotland.
The new curling center has four sheets of ice, a large gathering area with tables and chairs, a bar (which is almost a necessity for curling) and handicapped accessible restrooms. The club is looking for new players, and hopes to offer programs for children and people who use wheelchairs.
To officially dedicate the ice, the curlers raised their brooms to create an archway for others to pass under. A bagpipe player led the way onto the ice. The curlers were given shots of Scotch as a traditional blessing was offered, “hoping the ice is clean and true.”
Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw predicted a long healthy life for curling at the new center.
“This is such a beautiful facility. I know you have worked really, really hard,” she said. “If they walk in the door, they will be hooked.”
Former county commissioner and state representative Tim Brown, who previously curled with the club, promised to come back to use the new site.
“For many years, members of Bowling Green Curling Club have envisioned this facility,” he said. There were many difficulties along the way, “But here we are.”
The club, Brown said, has achieved the mission of leaving the world a better place.
“Clearly that goal has been met by the Bowling Green Curling Club,” he said. “Cheers to all and cheers to curling in Northwest Ohio.”
For those people wanting to learn the sport of curling, the new center can be reached at 419-751-2875.