Friends, pints and the Anchorage Curling Club

At the beginning of October, The Anchorage Curling Club opened their doors for another fun-filled season. With winter beginning to punctuate its presence, it’s a perfect opportunity to uncover something new to fill your time.

Tucked away in Government Hill, the club is one of Anchorage’s best-kept secrets. It also has a long history in the community.

“The club has been around as an entity since the ’50s, this facility has been around since the early ’60s,” John Seigle, an avid curler who is in his fourth year as the secretary of the ACC Board, said.

With a facility as old as this one, there are plenty of challenges in keeping everything up and running.

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Members of the Anchorage Curling Club meet regularly at their facility located in Government Hill. Curling, which is a traditional Scottish sport, runs its season from mid-October to April. Photo credit: Young Kim

The club had to suspend its operation for almost two full seasons after what Seigle called the “ice-making fiasco.” As one might suspect, it’s hard to curl when there is no ice. During this downtime, the club, which usually boasts a full-time membership of about 150 curlers, had dropped down to 12 members.

“[We] were helping keep the electricity on,” Seigle said.

The club was able to quickly recover last year, which was the first full season back on the ice and had about 110 full-time members.

The building was given a face-lift during the renovations which included installation of a system that is considered the new wave of ice-making, successfully putting the road-block in the rearview. Now the club is hoping to further expand its membership, as well as set the record straight when it comes to misconceptions of the sport.

Curling, which is a traditional Scottish sport, is considered a very social and communal experience. There is a lot more to it than drinking beer and sliding stones across a frozen surface.

“They call it chess on ice,” Courtney Gill, a child development major at UAA and curling enthusiast, said. “There’s a lot of strategy involved. It’s just kind of an interesting, quirky sport… It’s a lot of fun.”

It can also be a great winter workout.

“If you’re doing it right, you should be tired.” Seigle said.

Curling is a sport for everyone. Seigle said that it is a lifetime sport, and the club has had members in the past who were in their 70s.

Curling can be picked up at any age, and the club hosts special “learn to curl” events that cater to new or interested members. Getting new members has been tricky at times for the club.

“There’s a lot of people that are interested in [curling], and they don’t even know that there is a curling club here in Anchorage,” Seigle said. “You say Government Hill and they’re like, ‘Where is that?’” Gill added.

The club also hosts special events called Bonspiels to will draw in more potential curlers. The upcoming Bonspiel, called the Rookie Spiel, will be on Oct. 27 and 28, and consist of two days of curling with Halloween costumes, prizes and food. The club makes sure it is an opportunity for new members to learn, as they team new players with more experienced ones.

“You’re getting coaching while you’re playing,” Gill said. “It’s a really great time to get anyone who is remotely interested in the sport to get a little bit of an introduction and see what it’s like and be a part of the fun.”

The $20 Bonspiel fee is waived for anyone who had previously attended a “learn to curl” leading up to the event.

The rich history of curling, with its Bonspiels, potlucks and multi-generational atmosphere, cannot overshadow the rich relationship between curling and beer. It is a Scottish sport, after all.

“I like that it is a sport about strategy, and it’s the only Olympic sport you can play and drink beer at the same time,” Keegan McElhinney, a geomatics major who recently joined the club, said.

For those new to curling, there can be perks to losing games against their more experienced counterparts.

“It’s kind of like an old tradition where the winning team buys the losing team a pitcher of beer,” Gill said.

The club’s season, which runs from early October into the second week of April, is still in the early stages of getting their members signed up. With the season just getting started, it’s a great time to check out the club, which has multiple membership packages, including student and under-25 discounts.

Gill picked up the sport in college and wished she’d know about it sooner.

“I think a lot of college kids would enjoy it,” Gill said. “It’s pretty easy to get the curling bug.”

For more information about the Anchorage Curling Club and to look at their events calendar, you can visit their website at anchoragecurling.com.