A new two-sheet indoor curling rink is nearing completion in Alexandra, New Zealand. The new rink will join existing four-sheet rinks in Naseby and Dunedin as the country’s third dedicated curling facility.
Alex, as it is colloquially known to New Zealanders, is a bustling town of 6,000 in the South Island of the country. Located in the Central Otago area, Alex is one of the most inland locations in New Zealand. This produces very hot summers— it’s one of the main stonefruit and winegrowing regions—as well as very cold winters. These winters have produced a lengthy local history of outdoor curling, dating back to the goldrush days of the 1880s.
John Campbell, one of the curlers behind the project, said that locals have already shown interest in the new facility. “The townsfolk are already talking about our new curling rink, which is great,” said Campbell. “We currently have 30 teams playing outdoor curling on our outdoor ice rink each winter. This will let even more people play our sport.”
Campbell says the rink has been a true community effort. It has been built adjacent to the local outdoor ice rink, which has meant some costs have been saved. “The ice rink replaced its refrigeration plant about three years ago. When that happened, we ensured that the plant would have enough capacity to also support an adjacent curling facility. We’ve started with a two-sheet rink, but we have designed in the ability to easily expand to a four-sheet rink in the future using the same plant and roof structure.”
As was the case with the Naseby rink, local tradespeople and volunteers have played a big part of making it come together. “For example, we poured the concrete flooring yesterday. The concrete guys didn’t charge us for their time—they just asked for an acknowledgement in the rink after it is done. That’s the way community projects get done here in New Zealand, everybody pitches in somehow.”
Campbell sees the new rink as the key to getting local schools more involved in the sport. “We have 10,000 people within 15 minutes of the facility, and another 10,000 within 30 minutes. We believe that local primary and secondary schools will be very interested in making curling part of their sport activities.”
The project started with humble ambitions, but has evolved and improved. “We originally thought we would just do a fabric tent structure over a couple of sheets of ice,” said Campbell. “But as we worked on it and figured out what could be possible, that transformed into a proper all-weather structure for a two-sheeter, then into a plan for a two-sheeter that could be expanded into a four-sheeter.
“We’re all really happy to see it coming to fruition.”
Campbell has represented New Zealand internationally, competing in the Pacific-Asia Curling Championships in the 1990s, World Mixed Doubles Championships in 2012 with daughter Natalie, and World Seniors in 2005.
The grand opening of the new facility is scheduled for May 2021.