Curling club sees renewed interest in a 'happy sport'
Posted January 31, 2007
Photo by Patricia O’Blenes
By Jennie Miller
C & G Staff Writer
FERNDALE — Feather bowling, bocce ball and shuffleboard have got nothing on this game.
Similar in goal and in style, but vastly different in spirit, curling has seen a rebirth of interest in the area in the last five years since the Detroit Curling Club’s latest home was constructed in Ferndale.
“The first time I played it, I was hooked,” said Mike Grudzinski of Ferndale, who wandered into the club one day five years ago to check things out, signed up for a membership, and now serves as club president. “We have two or three leagues every night of the week and we also rent out ice to the public.”
The sport dates back to the 1800s.
“The oldest known curling in the U.S. happened right on Orchard Lake in 1832,” Grudzinski said, looking at framed black- and-white photographs of early Michigan curlers hanging on the walls.
“The original building was built in 1906 on Forest Ave. near Wayne State, and it was used until 1979,” Grudzinski said. “Then they used an old horse barn in West Bloomfield until 1996. For six years, we didn’t have ice, until we built this one right here in Ferndale.”
The club operates on a 99-year lease with the City of Ferndale, at a cost of $1 per year.
“The Parks and Recreation Department uses it in the summer for its camps, and events have been held here like the Pet Expo, the Hometown Festival and the Katrina Relief Fundraiser,” Grudzinski said. “Every year, the city is finding more and more uses for it, which is great.”
In 2002, when the club opened in Ferndale, membership was at a low 100. But today, the number has nearly tripled, with 260 current members.
“It’s one of those sports you can just pick up at any point in your life,” Grudzinski said.
As Grudzinski spoke, he smiled and watched the Monday night women’s league games get underway. Women of all ages set out on the ice, smiling and getting into position.
“Good curling!” one player says to another prior to beginning, in a show of sportsmanship the sport is known for having.
“It’s a happy sport,” was all Dave Pietrangelo, 20, of Troy could think to say when asked what he loves about curling. He laughed and added, “We have fun out there. It’s a social sport. You can have fun and be serious at the same time.”
The club promotes a family atmosphere.
“There’s a great deal of camaraderie. Everybody here would bend over backward for each other,” Grudzinski said. “I haven’t witnessed this kind of family atmosphere anywhere else.”
But it’s not all fun and games. There’s some serious competition going on at the same time. Pietrangelo will soon join three other teammates in representing the Great Lakes Curling Association in a national championship event in Seattle.
“There are 10 regions in the U.S.,” Pietrangelo explained. “Each sends a qualifying team to nationals. It’s a pretty big deal.”
Jon Schwartz, 16, of Southfield, Rob Escott, 19, of Farmington, and Kyle Mason, 20, of Farmington, join Pietrangelo on his junior men’s curling team. Steve Schleffer, 24, of Troy, serves as coach of the team.
Mason and Escott both started curling just this year, through their community education program.
“You can pick it up quickly, but it’s much more challenging than it looks,” Pietrangelo said.
“It’s easy to learn; it’s hard to get good; and you can always get better,” Grudzinski explained.
The Detroit Curling Club is located at 1615 E. Lewiston, on the northwest corner of Martin Road Park, on the east side of Ferndale. The public is welcome to drop in and watch the games on any league night and inquire about taking a community education course, becoming a member or renting a sheet of ice to play with friends.
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