Club looks to grow curling numbers

New Brunswick man Rob Swan makes his curline across the nation stop in Prince Albert in January, 2017. Herald File Photo

Looking to raise its registration numbers and take out the lull of idling away the winter evenings, the city’s curling club is taking the lead on bringing new, young curlers to the sport.

The club has introduced three new leagues for the 2017-18 curling season, each geared to its specific demographic, but all with the intent of bringing the under-40 crowd out to the rink for recreational rock throwing.

Adding to its existing 14 leagues, the club has added a Business League, a First Nations League and a Millennial League.

“Since I started here (at the club) I noticed a falloff. I see less and less young people involved with curling,” general manager Matt Sawatzky said. He started with the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club in 2016.

The initiative, which he helped start with the approval of the club’s board, was his idea. He wants to grow the sport among younger people and to fulfill the club’s mandate to keep people active in the community, he said.

He said that when he started, he kept seeing “the same old people signing up for the same old leagues.”

The falloff, Sawatzky thinks, is due to recent tough economic times – locally and across the country.

“Parents need to be choosey with how they support their kids and the sports they participate in. Whereas before kids were maybe taking part in three or four sports, nowadays they might only be in one sport,” he said.

To that end, he stressed the affordability of the sport in encouraging “the next generation of curlers,” he said. “The bulk of curlers registered (last year) are in the 40-plus age group.”

“We do have extra brooms and sliders for people to try out, if they don’t want to commit to it financially,” he said.

That and the social benefits are another reason to get out and throw a few stones, he noted: “It’s a great place to meet new people and a great atmosphere to hang out in. It’s no different than going to the movies or to a Raiders’ hockey game.”

Since starting the registration-drive in August, he said community feedback has been positive, noting that there have been “30 to 40 new curlers” who have registered.

“We’ve spoken with the Casino, too, so that they’ll send their staff and hopefully family members to the rink,” he said.

“I also don’t see a lot of First Nations people curling. So we hope to bring them out, too.”

As for people in the millennial age group, Sawatzky is expecting a last-minute rush.

“(They) usually wait until the last minute to sign up,” he said, including himself among last-minute planners.

Prince Albert is the first site in the province to host a curling rink, according to Sawatzky.

Based on research that he and the club’s board are conducting for its 50th anniversary next year, they stumbled across photos of the province’s first sheet of curling ice, dated to 1904, he said.

The rink was located near the train bridge on the bank of the North Saskatchewan River, he said.

People looking to sign up for one of the club’s 17 leagues can visit or phone the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club.