Pittsburgh is already a hockey town. Can it become a curling one, too?
Steve Buffington hopes so.
Mr. Buffington, 54, an engineer who lives in Moon, is president of the Pittsburgh Curling Club, a group with about 100 members that formed shortly after the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics brought competitive curling into the living rooms of American television viewers.
A decade later, the club, which practices on weekends at the Robert Morris University Island Sports Center on Neville Island, is trying to open its own facility dedicated to curling.
"A building would give us a lot of opportunity to do additional things to promote curling in the Pittsburgh area and actually have it become something that people think of -- that curling is in Pittsburgh," Mr. Buffington said.
The club's goal is to open an $800,000 facility near Mars in time for the 2014 Winter Olympics next year, he said. The facility is in the fundraising and design phase.
On Friday, however, the club -- motto: "Fun is just a stone's throw away" -- brought curling Downtown. It offered a demonstration of curling techniques and lessons at Eighth Street and Penn Avenue, using what the club calls land rocks, or stones with wheels, on asphalt, rather than ice.
"It's not very often that you get to check out something that is unique and different," said Leigh White, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. The curling demonstration was part of a Night Market event that the partnership and other groups organized to draw people Downtown.
Curling, a game with Scottish origins, is played in teams of four, with teammates working together with brooms to slide heavy granite stones (or "rocks") across a sheet of ice so that they stop as close as possible to the center of a target called the home.
The game is extremely popular in Canada, where Brian Stuart, 54, a software developer who lives in Beaver Falls, grew up. He started curling when he was 12 years old, played the game through college, then joined the Pittsburgh Curling Club in 2006.
The hockey ice that the club currently plays on is not as level as hand-scraped curling ice and thus is not ideal, he said. That's one of the reasons why the group is trying to create a dedicated facility for curling.
"It's like playing golf in a cow pasture," he said of their current space.
As for whether curling can increase its popularity here, he said there's a good chance it can, especially if the club has a dedicated facility.
"I think there's a good chance," he said. "We have a good core group of people. And it's just an awareness thing. Once we get up and running, it will make it easier."
It could also give curlers with Olympic aspirations a place to train.
Jacki Temple, a 36-year-old artist who lives in Shaler, started curling a few years ago. She said she "fell in love with it on the spot" and wants to train for the Olympic curling team in a few years.
"It's actually a real goal that I have," she said, adding that she'll be aiming for the 2018 Winter Olympics, rather than the games being held next year.
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707.