The EC Curling Club: Sweep-Sweeping Away Since 1876

Briana Bryant

If you’re looking for something unique to do in the winter that is inside yet also on ice, check out curling.  Curling is a very social winter sport that can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities.  The Eau Claire Curling Club is nothing new.  The club first started on January 14, 1876, when “the Knights of the Broom met at the Railway Hotel, for the purpose of organizing a curling club.”  It was then called the First Eau Claire Curling Club, changed to the Indianhead Curling Club in 1956, and then just the Eau Claire Curling Club in 1995.  The original officers chosen in 1876 were Frank Pully, the president, John Copeland, the secretary, and John Drummond, the treasurer.  The Eau Claire Daily Free Press, an old newspaper of the area, published an article about the then-new club called, “Be Gone Dull Care and Ill Health.”  In the article, the club promises for all that join the club “a good time for less money than is usually paid for doctor’s bills in the winter months.”

The club was originally constructed by its members, not a separate construction crew, making it more a part of the club and likely creating more of a team unity.

In the past, the club played outdoors, switching to indoors around 1956 and playing on Fairfax Avenue in Altoona.  A new clubhouse was built in 1975, which was larger and included a small kitchen and fireplace for the club members to use.  Finally, in August of 1995, club members wanted a new building to enjoy their sport in, so the members began to devote time on nights and weekends to make it happen.  They still use that building today, which is located at 5530 Fairview Drive in the Eau Claire County Exposition Building.  The interesting part is that the club was constructed by its members, not a separate construction crew, making it more a part of the club and likely creating more of a team unity.  The current building even includes a heated curling area and large viewing windows.  The first ceremonial stone for the brand-new building was delivered by Bernie Bernicke, a long-time member and ice maker.  With artificial ice making, the season is extended by almost two months compared to the early days of natural ice, and the ice for the rink can be created in only one week.

Today, there are several leagues that you can get involved with in the Eau Claire area.  Being involved in a league allows you to compete in state, regional, national, and even international championships.  The current team even includes a 1998 Team USA Men’s Olympic curler, Mike Peplinski.  In 2011, Geoff Goodland took the Senior Men’s Team to a Silver Medal in the World Championships, which were held in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The Eau Claire team was named Team of the Year in 2011 by USA Curling.

The club now has leagues nearly every day during the season.  The only limit for participants is that they must be between the ages of 7 and 99, which is really the opposite of limiting.  The next open bonspiel, which is the name for a special curling event, will be on January 4-6 of 2013.  The club bonspiel will be on the first weekend of March.  This season, the membership is up to 230, ranging from 8 years old to over 70.  One great thing about curling is that it is an inexpensive sport.  Members may wear casual winter clothing to play and must only purchase a slider, curling shoes, and a broom.

Even if this winter ends up being mild and eerily warm, the Curling Team will still be curling relentlessly in their indoor rink.