Crokicurl rink an innovation

Former Olympic curler Kelly Schafer throws a stone on the new crokicurl rink while Chris Keleher, the community recreation coordinator at the City of Swift Current, looks on, Feb. 20.

There is a new outdoor winter activity available to Swift Current residents at the city’s first crokicurl rink in Riverdene Park.

The official opening of the new crokicurl rink took place with a ribbon cutting ceremony, Feb. 20.

The ribbon cutting was done by Deputy Mayor Ryan Plewis, who was assisted by two notable Swift Current residents. Mitch Minken is the chair of Curling Canada’s board of governors and former Olympic curler Kelly Schafer has curled on the international level for Scotland and Great Britain.

All three dignitaries had an opportunity before the ribbon cutting to throw a few stones on the crokicurl rink.

“It's a little different, but it's a fun opportunity to get introduced to the game,” Minken said afterwards.

He felt the new crokicurl rink offers a great opportunity for people to get outdoors, especially during the current pandemic, and to try something new. It might even inspire them to try out curling.

“One of Curling Canada's objectives is of course to grow the game of curling at all levels, not just the high-performance stuff that you see on TV, but also recreationally,” he said. “Part of our objective is to introduce people to the game. So whatever opportunity, whether it's street curling in the summer time, rocks and rings in the schools, or something like this that’ll pique people's interest to give the game a try is right within our objective of introducing all people to curling as a sport.”

Crokicurl is still a relatively new winter sport that started in Canada. It was first played at The Forks in Winnipeg in 2017. The game is a combination of curling and the board game crokinole. It is played by two teams, each composed of one or two players.

The ribbon cutting event was also Schafer’s introduction to the game, which she was not aware of before.

“Curling is on TV right now, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, but I think it's more appropriate that we're outside here, kind of taking part in what this is,” she said. “It's cool. I'm definitely going to bring my family down so that we can all give it a go. It's fun.”

She already told her family in Scotland about this new Canadian game, and it was something they have not been aware of.

“We usually make some outdoor rinks if the weather is cold enough, so that's more of a tradition, but it's a pretty neat setup here,” she said. “So I'm sure it's something we can send their way that they can do as well.”

She felt crokicurl is a good way to promote outdoor activity and it has the added potential to introduce people to curling.

“Swift Current is so lucky that we have such great outdoor space, and so just adding to that recreation component where there is something else that we can all come and take part in and have fun is just obviously a positive,” she said. “And personally, for me the fact that it's related to curling is even more of a bonus. It's something that hopefully even, if people can see what it is and come down and give it a go, maybe they'll quite like it and then maybe they can go over to the curling rink and give that a try indoors as well.”

Plewis said the new crokicurl rink is a welcome addition to the City’s recreation, park and culture offerings, especially during the current pandemic period when there are fewer options available for people to do.

“Today is the first day you can book and I know the crokicurl rink is totally booked,” he said. “So I think there's a lot of uptake on it and a pretty simple thing that we can do as a community to put a new facility in at a pretty inexpensive dollar value and it gets lots of use. So as a council member I'm really happy obviously that we're able to offer something like this in our community.”

The crokicurl rink is located next to the Sheldon Kennedy outdoor rink in Riverdene Park. Its proximity to overhead lights makes it possible to enjoy a crokicurl game at night.

The City received a Living Sky Development Corporation grant for the crokicurl project and the total cost, including the signage, was just under $3,000.

Chris Keleher, the community recreation coordinator at the City of Swift Current, said there are already crokicurl rinks in several other communities in Saskatchewan, including Saskatoon, Estevan and Yorkton.

“We've been out looking at it for a little bit,” he mentioned. “I think this winter was always the target, but especially with the pandemic and with what's going on with that we thought it was the right time to get it started this winter. It was a bit of a delay getting it finished. We just about had it ready to go and then in January the weather warmed up and there was further delay, but it's been a huge hit.”

The crokicurl rink became operational in mid-January and there has been a good response from the community to this new winter activity.

“We’ve had some of the curling teams and the curling membership that with the closure of the curling rink they're obviously not able to play,” he said. “So they've come out here with their teams and their friends and other members and they've enjoyed it.”

The hours of operation for the crokicurl rink are the same as for the outdoor hockey and skating rinks. Guidelines on how to play the game are posted on a large signboard at the rink. Play times can be booked online on the City’s website at www.swiftcurrent.ca

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