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Thursday, March 10, 2016

This Floored Me

When the Detroit Curling Club was formed they played first at the Athletic Field, a large parcel of property surrounded by Woodward, Canfield, Cass and Forest. The two rinks were located approximately where The Whitney (built in 1890) stands today.  They built sidewalls in order to flood the ground.  The ice surface was 40 feet wide by 200 feet long - plenty of room for two rinks.

By 1888 The Club had bought the Forest Ave. property and built a covered rink.  The ice surface was 85 feet wide and 165 feet long, and the ice was reported to be at least 4 inches thick.

In those days the curling season was primarily January and February.  December games were possible, but the curlers could not rely on Mother Nature for the right conditions.

During November 1890 The Club installed a level floor over the ground in order to make ice with less water and easier to freeze.  The floor was 85 feet wide by 160 long.  The Detroit Free Press called it:  “the largest unobstructed floor space in the city of Detroit”.  WHAT?  Say that again.  “The largest unobstructed floor space in the city of Detroit”.  Wow!

On December 4, 1890 there were four games being played on one-half an inch of ice.  According to The Club President:  “These are probably the first games of curling in America this season”.  The new floor and thinner ice also extended the season into March.

In 1924 The Club raised $30,000.00 through the sale of bonds to the members.  This money was used to install an ice making refrigeration system and a concrete floor interlaced with pipes to allow the flow of the ammonia based coolant.  Ice was typically an inch thick.

(Sidebar:  After the Stock Market Crash of 1929 most of the members lost their businesses, jobs and income.  Many members in the early 1930s demanded repayment of their bonds.  This time-frame was financially the worst time in the history of The Detroit Curling Club.  Thanks to a handful of members The Club survived).

The move to West Bloomfield in 1979 returned the ice to a dirt floor with the refrigeration pipes laid within the sand and dirt.  Some years the ice was over 2-3 inches thick.  You do not know fear until you witness a small geyser of glycol squirting up through the ice.  Not an easy repair in mid-season – it happened more than a few times.
Enjoy the ice we have now.  A little run; a little fall just adds to the fun.


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