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Fernie curlers return to the ice after two-year hiatus

Registration hits all-time high

Members of the Fernie Curling Club drew their first rocks on Monday, October 28, after a two-year hiatus from the rink.

Registration hit approximately 140 members this year, a record high for the club.

Ice in the Fernie Curling Club has been created with the help of a new Freon ice plant, which both the curling club and Memorial Arena now share. In the curling club, new roll-out PVC piping has been installed along the floor where the sheets are located. Water is then flooded over top of the piping, a system designed to give ice makers better control over the temperature of the ice.

The new modular ice mats required an investment of $124k by the City of Fernie, $10k of which was donated by the club. The proposition for the new mats was the result of a leaking flooring system, which cost the club their season last year. The year before this, the club was shut due to the ammonia leak.

Club president Annie McFarlane said the new method of making ice brought with it a slew of unexpected challenges, mostly out of their control; new equipment not arriving in time, equipment not operating as it should, challenges configuring the new chiller, and more.

At times, McFarlane said the prospect of curling again seemed almost out of reach.

After countless hours and months of work, it came down to a matter of minutes on what was anticipated to be their first night of curling. When crews went to place the hacks on October 28, just hours before curlers were set to arrive, they found they did not fit.

A group of three volunteers got to work and finished modifying the hacks less than one hour before the first stones were thrown.

“(There were) a lot of nail-biting moments through the last two years, knowing, not knowing, being okay and not being okay,” said McFarlane.

“So… then to watch people on the ice curling on Monday was pretty cool, to say the least. Honestly, I didn’t think we were going to see that.”

After the issues last season, McFarlane thought that the club would be shut for a long time. She said she is thankful to the City of Fernie for purchasing the new refrigeration mats, which has allowed them to return to the sport they love.

The City explained in an email that these new mats were purchased because they can be moved to another location, should there be a need in the future. They further explained that as this is a new product in City of Fernie facilities, staff worked with the curling club on an implementation schedule which took into consideration potential unforeseen circumstances. As a result of this, the target date for starting the ice plant was schedule one week earlier than usual.

During the system start up, the contractor encountered air blockages which resulted in some delays, however the ice plant is now fully operation and the facility has been transferred to the curling club for their season.

Approximately 50 participated in the first night of curling, followed by the seniors league the night after which also saw the use of all four sheets.

McFarlane said they wouldn’t be curling had it not been for their dedicated group of volunteers.

“These people, they were there because they wanted to curl, and we were all curling last week, and it was pretty cool to see after two years,” said McFarlane.

“Yes, we all worked really hard, yes, I played my role, the board played their role, everybody played their roles, and we had record registration, but none of this would have happened without our volunteers, which were spectacular.”

McFarlane said the club is looking forward to not only hosting senior and mixed teams, but also the youth in the area from both The Fernie Academy and Fernie Secondary School.

In addition to sheet rentals, the club currently hosts three leagues, the juniors, and drop-ins on Thursday nights starting in the new year.

She thanked the Sparwood Curling Club for opening their arms to them, and hosting members of the Fernie Curling Club during their two-year hiatus.

If interested in joining in on the fun, call the Fernie Curling Club at (250) 423-6553 and ask for Annie McFarlane.

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