- Associated Press - Monday, July 13, 2015

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - Mankato Curling Club president Kim Rheaume doesn’t want to be an alarmist, but she admits this is a critical time in the 112-year history of the organization. Depending on how things play out, the curling club could thrive or it could cease to exist.

“This is definitely a pivotal moment for us,” Rheaume said. “If we can’t raise the funds we need, we won’t have curling in Mankato anymore.”

Curling has a long history in Mankato, dating back to the early 1900s, The Free Press (https://bit.ly/1H4FAc5 ) reported. Until recently the program had about 200 active members who played regularly at the club’s facility - the Caledonia Community Center - nestled between Franklin Rogers Park and the Madison East Center.

How many active members the club has at the moment is debatable because the 2014-15 season was cancelled because of an inability to make ice.

The Caledonia Community Center is owned by the city and leased to the curling club. It has always been the responsibility of the club to maintain the building - including the ice plant.



The club’s woes began about three years ago when its three-part, ice-making apparatus began to break down. The club has worked desperately to keep it running, purchasing expensive replacement parts, but last January it became evident it just wasn’t going to work anymore and the curling season had to be canceled. The organization also had to cut short the 2013-14 season.

“It was kind of terrible this last season without curling,” said Russ Weingartz, a club member and former club president. “We curled one night a week down in Mapleton, but it’s not the same. When you don’t have your own ice, you lose a lot of membership, a lot of interest.”

Rheaume said the Band-Aid approach just isn’t sufficient with the ice plant anymore. The facility needs a new ice-making system that costs about $160,000.

Rheaume said club members are tapped out financially, having had to fund the repairs over the last three years. That’s why they’re looking for outside funds to try to keep it going.

“That’s not easy for us to do,” Rheaume said. “It’s a pride thing for us. We’ve been self-sufficient for 112 years, but now we need help.”

The club has approached the city to see if it would be willing to help, but so far, the answer has been no. Rheaume was told the best the city might be able to do is to make it part of the budget, but that could take five to six years and the organization doesn’t have that long.

The club has started a GoFundMe.com web page where it hopes to raise at least $50,000. It’s off to a slow start as the page has raised slightly more than $1,000 over the last five months.

The club recently applied for and has been granted tax-exempt status as a nonprofit organization. The plan now is to try to hit some of the bigger businesses in town to see if they would be willing to make a tax-deductible donation.

“We’ve even gone to other curling clubs to see if they could help us out, but they’re all non-profits, too, so they don’t have any extra money they can give us,” Rheaume said. “We’re brainstorming to see if we can come up with other ideas, too.”

The club has also tried to get some insurance money for the ice plant, but Rheaume says the prospects don’t look good. Mankato curling has also applied for some grants but none have come through.

The curling club’s history is a rich one. According to a release on its website, the club has produced state and national champion curlers at both the adult and junior levels.

Its members have competed in Olympic Trials and World Championships and the facility has played host to several national-championship events including the USA Mixed National Championships in 2004, the Olympic Team Trial Challenge Round in 2005 and the USA Club National Championships in 2008, 2011 and 2012.

Those events are all in addition to the casual recreational opportunities the club provides its members throughout the winter months.

“I certainly think it can come back,” Weingartz said, if the necessary purchases and repairs are made. “We have everybody from 5-year-olds to 80-year-olds and people often leave and then come back to it. The biggest thing is we have to guarantee ice, and we haven’t been able to do that the last couple of years.”

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Information from: The Free Press, https://www.mankatofreepress.com

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