The Pine Tree Curling Club plays two nights a week at the Troubh Ice Arena. Courtesy photo

PORTLAND — Andrew Burbank had seen the sport of curling on TV and last year decided to give it a try with the Pine Tree Curling Club at the William Troubh Ice Arena. Right away, he fell in love with playing.

“It’s a fun game, it’s easy to learn but hard to master,” said Burbank, who lives in Yarmouth.

And there’s a larger obstacle.

“The ice arena isn’t meant for curling,” he said. “And the way the veterans of the game talk about playing in a dedicated curling rink, it feels like going to the big leagues.”

The curling club is raising money to buy a warehouse of about 14,000 square feet in the greater Portland area to convert to a curling rink. So far, the club has raised more than $200,000 from club members over the past year.

“We are in a position where we can do it, but finding the space is the most problematic,” said the club president, former recreational hockey player David Florig of Old Orchard Beach. “There are plenty of warehouses, but it’s hard to scope them out.”

The only other curling arena in Maine is in Belfast, which has about 100 members, according to their website.

Curling, for the uninitiated, is a game where you slide a 38-44-pound stone along a 150-foot-long by 15-foot-wide path of ice, aiming for a target against another team. Members of your team may sweep the ice in front of the stone as it slides to help it go farther or to slow it down, adding to the complexity of game strategy.

According to founder David Campbell, a Westbrook resident, the Pine Tree Curling Club has grown gradually since it started in 2015. It has about 60 regular members, but that number tops 100 around the Winter Olympics, when curling teams from around the world, including the United States, compete. The next Winter Olympics are scheduled for 2022.

Regular membership will grow with a new arena and clubhouse, Campbell said.

“We have been limited at the ice arena. We only get it for certain days and certain times. Not everyone can curl until midnight on Wednesdays,” he said.

And, the Troubh arena in Portland doesn’t offer the ice quality needed for real curling, he said.

“Hockey rinks in general are not flat with how the water freezes on them and the way the ice gets cleaned. And with people skating in the arena, much of the ice is too choppy,” Florig said. “It’s not fun when you throw it and it cuts another direction because of a slice in the ice.”

A new facility would give the club their own special rink and flexible scheduling. It also would include a clubhouse with a bar and televisions to serve as a social gathering spot for club members.

With a dedicated arena, they can also host other teams and competitions and become a part of the larger curling community, Florig said.

“I played for (under a year). I love it,” Burbank said. “I am still terrible, don’t get me wrong, but it’s so low-barrier. They provide all of the equipment and these people who are really good take their own time to help me. It has been a great experience.”

Members of the Pine Tree Curling Club say their current location, the William Troubh Ice Arena, has served them well but limits their growth. Courtesy photo

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