CEDAR RAPIDS — When people ask Lon Peper why he wants to bring a curling club to Cedar Rapids, his answer is simple: “Because it’s not here.”
Peper moved to Eastern Iowa from South Carolina in September. A member of an active curling club on the East Coast, Peper searched for a similar group here. All he could find was a student club at Drake University in Des Moines.
Further research revealed that previous attempts to create curling clubs in Iowa hadn’t met with success. But Peper and his fellow curling enthusiasts plan to change that.
The Cedar Rapids Curling Club launched last winter with a meet-and-greet at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. More than 30 people — many of whom had never tried the sport before and one former Canadian provincial champion — attended.
“There’s a definite interest,” Peper says.
“We have 225 players in our adult hockey league,” says Kevin Brooks, the arena’s hockey director. “They love to be around the rink. We’ll see a lot of them get involved.”
Mark Olson sees the club as an opportunity to reconnect with a sport he enjoyed as a child.
“I started with the Grand Forks Curling Club (in North Dakota) when I was in late grade school,” Olson says.
He played throughout junior and high school, eventually playing in an adult league. When he learned about Peper’s attempts to start a club in Cedar Rapids, he offered his support.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how I do after so many years not playing,” Olson says with a laugh. “I don’t have the physique of a teenager anymore, but the desire is still there.”
The club will hold an open house Tuesday at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena. Participants will have a brief introduction to the sport before taking the ice to learn the basics of the game.
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“Everybody is getting out on the ice and trying it,” says Kari Kozak of Iowa City. She was introduced to curling at Iowa State University, where curling is an intramural sport, and later joined curling clubs in North Carolina and Texas.
Kozak and Peper are currently members of the Waltham Curling Club in Triumph, Ill.
The Cedar Rapids Curling Club will be Iowa’s first open-to-the-public curling club. Peper says the club likely will operate for a couple of hours on Friday nights at the ice arena. But, first, it needs to raise enough money to purchase equipment.
The plan is to have a developmental league this summer and launch regular league play in the fall. The club will be open to participants ages 12 and up. Eventually, the club hopes to have enough interest and funding to begin a youth league.