A look back at Red Deer’s love for curling

On Jan. 3, 2013, the newly expanded and renovated Red Deer Curling Centre held its official grand opening.

Curling enthusiasts from across the City and district turned out to admire the additional 38,000 sq. ft. of space, the 12 sheets of ice, the 350-seat lounge, the new meeting rooms and a number of other first class amenities.

The expanded and rejuvenated building had a prestigious start when it was first built 60 years ago. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent turned the first sod on July 13, 1953.

On Jan. 28, 1954, the facility officially opened with an 86-year-old founding member of the club, Hugh Clarke, delivering the first rock.

The stone he used was purportedly one of the first used in western Canada in the old Red River colony in the early 1800s.

The history of the Red Deer Curling Club actually goes back more than 100 years. The first games were played on the ice of the Red Deer River using modified jam cans as curling rocks.

The first official match was held on Boxing Day, 1898 at a new outdoor curling and skating rink, which had been built on Morrison (52) St. west of Nanton (48) Ave.

In the fall of 1903, Red Deer’s first covered ice rink was constructed on the Morrison (52) St. site.

The structure, which cost $3,000, had an ice surface of 175 by 60 ft. on the one side with two sheets of curling ice on the north side of the building.

The new rink officially opened on Dec. 22nd with a large and very successful ice carnival.

Curling then really took off in the community.

In October 1904, the Red Deer Curling Club applied to join the Alberta branch of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club of Scotland.

On Feb. 8, 1907, at 2:30 in the morning, disaster struck.

The roof of the ice rink collapsed under a heavy weight of snow. Fortunately, the portion of the building used for curling was salvageable and was soon put back into use. A couple of years later, a small addition was built and an extra sheet of ice was added onto the rink.

In February 1911, the first Red Deer Bonspiel was held with the championship cup being donated by the Calgary Brewing Company. The event was a great success and started an annual tradition that was to continue for several decades.

The widespread popularity of curling was further demonstrated in 1912 when the Red Deer Ladies Curling Club was formed.

By 1913, the Curling Club decided to form a joint stock company and sold $4,000 worth of shares.

A large extension was built onto the old curling rink. This was the building which served Red Deer’s curlers for the next 40 years.

In the spring of 1931, Red Deer put together a ‘dream team’ to compete in the Alberta Brier.

After a rousing all-night competition, this local team clinched the provincial championship. Unfortunately, bad luck dogged them at the subsequent MacDonald Brier in Toronto. They finished with only four wins and five losses.

On Boxing Day 1945, the Red Deer Curling Club hosted a bonspiel with each competing rink consisting of three farmers and one club member. Thus, the annual Farmer’s Bonspiel was born.

Recent years have continued to prove that Red Deer is a true curling centre. In 1994, the Labatt’s Brier was held at the Centrium as was the Tournament of Hearts in 2004 and 2012.

In 2011, the Thurber rink from Red Deer won the Dominion Curling Club championship and in 2012 Team Peterman won the Canadian National Junior Women’s championship. In 2012, the Armitage Rink won the Canadian National Senior Men’s Curling championship and will compete in the Worlds in April 2013.

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