Matthew Hansen

Curling rink renos thrill

Red Deer Curling Centre has plenty to brag about.

Red Deer Curling Centre has plenty to brag about.

An $8.8-million expansion and renovation project increased the number of curling sheets to 12 from eight, offers a 350-seat lounge, meeting rooms, and more.

“It’s exceeded our expectations,” said curling club president Scott Dickson on Thursday, when the centre celebrated its official grand opening as one of Red Deer’s centennial projects.

“It looks pretty impressive. People come in and go, ‘Wow, that’s a big space.’ ”

He said the curling centre has already grown by about 200 members thanks to the upgrades, with 17 adult leagues and four junior leagues.

Last year, the curling centre had 1,200 members.

Work began on the 57-year-old facility, located at 4725 43rd St., in mid-February and it reopened in early November. Almost 38,000 square feet were added to the building.

Upgrades to the first floor viewing area and second floor lounge/viewing area provide enhanced visibility with wall-to-wall windows to the ice.

Cameras over the ends allow people to see exactly where the rocks land on television monitors in viewing areas.

The new efficient ice-making plant makes it a top curling facility for players, Dickson said.

“The ice is fantastic.

“This is world curling championship ice all the time. Arena ice.”

And the activity doesn’t have to stop in the spring now that the sand floor beneath the ice has been upgraded to concrete.

“We do hope to utilize it as a trade show floor space. It’s going to be very versatile. We’ve got the huge end door so we can get vehicles through.”

He said Red Deer Public Market held in the curling rink parking lot on Saturdays throughout the summer is expected to be a draw for trade shows by providing a ready-made audience.

Mac Houston of Red Deer, who was watching seniors playing in the Pioneer League on Thursday afternoon, said renovations have made the curling centre into a marvelous building.

“I would say it’s likely one of the best rinks in Canada,” Houston said.

“It’s exceptional upstairs,” said Albert Buckland of Red Deer.

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