SIOUX FALLS, SD -
A pastime tracing its roots to 16th Century Scotland could soon be just a stone's throw from a rink near you. Some winter outdoor enthusiasts are working to get the sport of curling off the ground in Sioux Falls and onto the ice.
While a South Dakota winter doesn't always provide the optimal conditions to enjoy a day on the ice; even a sloppy January rainfall couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of these hardy competitors who may be on the verge of giving curling just the nudge it needs to slide into the Sioux Falls sports scene.
"I'm surprised how many people in the Sioux Falls area actually want to come out and play. They just didn't know it was here," Sioux Falls Curling founder Jim Marko said.
Julianna Dick-Ford began curling as a high school student in Alberta, Canada. She was surprised Sioux Falls didn't offer curling when she moved here a year and a half ago.
"I was actually kind of shocked because, you know, there's winter here in Sioux Falls and everyone's big into hockey and figure skating. Why not curling," Dick-Ford said.
The group, Sioux Falls Curling, demonstrated the sport during this month's Frosty Frolics. Curling involves sliding a 42 pound granite stone toward a bull's eye known as the house. Sweepers vigorously work their brooms creating friction that melts the ice and helps the stone move along.
"It's a really easy once you get the hang of it. After you've thrown the stone a few times, it's pretty easy to pick up," Emmy Noble said.
Curling gets its name from the curve or curl applied to the stone upon release. You can even knock your opponent's stones out of the house. So in some ways, curling is like horse shoes on ice.
"It's not just horse shoes and hand grenades, it's curling, too where close counts," Marko said.
It's finesse, fitness and fun, all rolled in one game.
"You can take curling to any level that you want. You can be as competitive as you want with it. I know there's people that just go out, they call it 'open curling night,' it's where you get groups of people out and just have fun," Marko said.
Curling is also big on the ice in Minnesota. But it's acceptance as a winter sport in South Dakota has moved at a glacial pace.
"The limited ice availability, that's the biggest reason," Marko said.
So, curlers are hoping the IcePlex in the works for Sioux Falls will offer a year-round, indoor home for their sport where they won't be at the mercy of the weather.
"Like now with the outdoor conditions, it's hard to play weather into your hand and just the conditions of the ice itself isn't always the greatest. Once you can get inside a controlled facility, the ice will be like it's supposed to be and you don't have to be out in the elements, either," Marko said.
Until an indoor facility is built, curlers will slide by on outdoor rinks, pursuing their passion while trying to get others swept up in the competition.
"Do it. It's fun, get out there, learn. It's a great sport, it's a great activity, get out, be out in the winter. It's fun," Dick-Ford said.
Sioux Falls Curling has also been busy fundraising to make the sport affordable for everyone; purchasing just a used granite stone can cost up to $3,000.
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