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Conversations for new curling club home continue between club, city of Willmar

January File Photo/Rand Middleton The Willmar Curling Club's idea to construct a dedicated curling facility in Willmar is one step closer with approval from the Willmar City Council for the city to begin negotiating with the club. The hope is such a facility will bring more curling events to Willmar, like the USA Curling Junior Nationals which took place in January.

WILLMAR—In curling jargon, the potential new curling club facility by the Willmar Civic Center has been swept closer to the house, inching nearer to the center of the button.

For those unfamiliar with the game of curling, this means with the approval Tuesday of the Willmar City Council to begin negotiating with the Willmar Curling Club, the construction of a new dedicated curling facility in Willmar is one step closer to becoming a reality.

"I think this is a move in the right direction," Councilman Shawn Mueske said.

The motion by the council does not approve the project, but it allows negotiations to begin with the curling club, which is also looking into the possibility of building in Spicer.

"This motion is we're open to the idea," Councilman Andrew Plowman said.

Willmar city staff have been working on a proposal which lays out that the city would provide an accessible site at the Civic Center property, limited excavation and soil corrections and connection of water and sanitary sewer to the site, with the total not to exceed $15,500. The proposal is still subject to a lease agreement between the city and curling club for the land.

The curling club would be responsible for constructing, maintaining and operating the facility.

"We think it will be a very good thing for the community," said Troy Gorans, who sits on the curling club facility committee.

Braun Intertec Corporation completed soil borings at a site next to the Blue Line Arena and found the soils there would be able to support a structure such as the proposed curling facility, according to information from the city. With these findings city staff concluded the amount of soil work needed for the project would be minimal.

Gorans said the curling club is beginning the process of raising the $1.5 million it estimates it needs to construct the building. The city's proposal to lease the land, along with the soil, excavation and utility work, is helping with the total costs. The club should know by November whether the capital campaign will work or not, Gorans said.

"We won't put any shovels in the ground until we know it's going up," Gorans said, adding the club will not leave a half finished building behind for someone else to deal with.

"It sounds like the curling club is doing their homework. I am encouraged," Councilman Tim Johnson said.

Councilman Ron Christianson shared concerns he had about the curling club having the membership and funds available to maintain and operate the building if it was built. He said it is a large project for a group with only 100 to 200 members.

"My fear is we will end up with it," Christianson said. He also said he is looking out for the taxpayers money in a time when cities are having to do more with less.

"I'm always looking out for them," Christianson said.

Gorans said there are 22 curling clubs in Minnesota and most of them achieve a cash flow with modest memberships.

"We do have operating budgets for the first year and the first five years" of the new building, Gorans said.

Gorans explained that maintaining a curling ice sheet requires less work than a hockey sheet. A curling sheet does not need constant resurfacing by a Zamboni as a rink used for skating sports does.

"Making the ice and maintaining the ice is not the chore that it is in an ice rink," Gorans said.