The sport of curling has returned to Airdrie, with new health and safety measures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
According to Airdrie Curling Club (ACC) Manager Don Delair, the facility poured ice Sept. 21 and has been open for practices for roughly two weeks.
“Overall, it’s been very positive,” he said. “People want something to do and physical activity is important for the community.”
With roughly 500 members signed up for the 2020-21 season, Delair said the club is operating at about 80 per cent of its membership from last year. He said ACC is hosting 11 leagues this fall and winter, with draws being held throughout the week.
To comply with public health protocols and Curling Canada’s return-to-play guidelines, Delair said a few rules have changed. For example, each rink is only allowed one sweeper.
“The throwing team has control of the ice, and once they’re done, it changes control to the other team,” he said. “We have designated spots on the ice for people to stand while waiting for the opposing team to finish their turn.”
Delair said anyone who enters ACC has to go through an Alberta Health checklist on Airdriecurlingclub.ca and fill out a COVID-19 declaration agreement and waiver.
“Obviously, the staff have to wear masks all the way through – our bartenders, kitchen, myself and ice staff,” he said. “It’s most important to keep everyone safe. Even with practices last week, no one seemed to mind going through that paperwork process, as long as they get to play.”
The club has also enhanced its sanitization measures, according to Delair, with curling stones cleaned at the start of each draw.
“There’s a ton of that to do and we’ve got all the processes in place,” he said. “Pretty much after every draw, we have to shut the rink down, clean it and allow the next one to come in.”
In addition to its weekly leagues, ACC is also hosting a few marquee events, Delair said.
The club’s first bonspiel of the season will be the eighth annual 2020 McKee Homes Fall Curling Classic, held Oct. 10 to 12. Taking place every Thanksgiving weekend, the bonspiel acts as a leg of the World Curling Tour (WCT). Last year’s tournament featured 18 men’s teams, including rinks from China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. However, with a lack of international competitors, Delair said the 2020 McKee Classic will look different compared to past years.
“We had four teams from Eastern Europe and Asia last year and that component will be missing this year,” he said. “On the flip side of that, all the local competitive teams are looking to play.”
One of the bonspiel’s biggest draws for fans will be two-time world champion Kevin Koe, Delair said. Five other rinks who competed at last year’s Alberta men’s provincial championships will also compete at the McKee Classic.
“It’s a different field [of competitors], but probably higher skilled teams than we had last year,” he said. “The Koe team will be live-streaming their games through their Facebook, so we’ll be highlighting that as well.”
Other than the McKee Classic, Delair said ACC is looking forward to hosting the Alberta junior provincial qualifiers at the end of February 2021.
Unfortunately, the club will not be able to accommodate the number of viewers who would likely want to attend.
“We’re in a unique situation of hosting these high-profile events, but unfortunately we’ll be limited for capacity as far as viewing,” Delair said, adding only one coach and one supporter is allowed per team for the McKay classic.
“The guidelines say we’re allowed X number of spectators, but we’ll be well under that. We just want to make sure everyone remains physically distant but also enjoys the sport. It might be as low as 30 spectators per draw, so significantly less than we’ve done in the past.”
For more information on ACC, Delair said to check Airdriecurlingclub.ca or follow the club on Facebook.