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Dedicated Ice Update

Denver CCWe want to share some updates with our members about our efforts to build a dedicated facility in the Omaha metro area. We’re really excited about this effort because a dedicated curling facility would enable Omaha to have high quality curling ice, new programming and more league times, and a dedicated social space for curlers, our members, and the community.

Last fall, we held a series of member input sessions to learn what Aksarben Curling members want to see in a future facility. We also began working with Leo A Daly, which is providing pro bono design services to translate members’ thoughts into the design of a new 4-sheet facility (designed in a way to be expandable to 6 sheets in the future).

Our plan is to develop a marketing floor plan, renderings, and conceptual estimate of costs this spring to determine our fundraising goal and budget planning. Our objective this year is to ensure that we’re in a good position by the time of the US Olympic Team Curling Trials in November to showcase our long-term vision for a dedicated curling facility and begin raising support to make it happen.

We surveyed members in February to inform some key decisions on the building design (eg, lockers, changing space, bar) and on programming (eg, league and bonspiel participation, price points). We had 125 responses on that survey—thank you!

In the survey we also received a lot of good suggestions, feedback, and questions in the open-ended responses. We thought we would lift up and respond here so folks know what we’re considering at this time:

Greater Time Availability to Curl
Many folks asked about having more options for more league draw times throughout the week. This is one of the major upsides of having our own facility! As many of you know, our weekday offerings are limited to Tuesdays at 8pm in the fall and winter and 7pm in the spring, and Fridays at 7pm. When we control our own facility, we could offer leagues every weekday evening and potentially offer an early draw and a late draw (dependent upon interest and numbers), which means we could have as many as 10 weeknight draw times. We could continue to offer our ever popular Sunday leagues throughout the day. Moreover, having our own facility opens up more options in the mornings and mid-days (eg, senior leagues, youth, and private events). Altogether, we could offer as many as 18 league draws during the week (not counting weekdays during the morning or afternoon).

New League Options
We also heard a lot of questions asking if Aksarben could offer additional programming and league types that we aren’t offering now. The short answer is yes! Potential options (dependent upon interest) include: mixed doubles / open doubles leagues, women’s leagues, more newcomer/instructional leagues, adaptive curling (eg, wheelchair leagues, stick curling leagues), and/or senior/weekday morning leagues.

Youth and Juniors Leagues
Right now, our juniors/youth program is offered once per season over an 8-week period on Saturday mornings from January through March. We could potentially offer a longer season or additional draw times, though this would require additional volunteer commitment. We could also see developing a competitive youth/juniors program. As many of you know, Aksarben once had a very competitive juniors program when we had a dedicated facility at the former Aksarben Fairgrounds. Back then, Aksarben Juniors won multiple US junior national championships and junior world medals!

Competitive Opportunities
Some folks asked about competitive leagues or playdown opportunities. Playdown events could include those at our club to determine which teams would represent Aksarben at regional curling competitions (ie, Mid America Curling Association), as well hosting regional events that lead into national tournaments (eg, juniors, club nationals, mixed doubles, mixed nationals). We could anticipate creating a standing competitive league for those who would like to compete at regional and national tournaments. Other suggestions we heard include having an end of season championship tournament featuring winners of that season’s leagues.

Public Learn to Curls & Newcomer Leagues
We love hosting Learn to Curls to teach community members the basics of curling and help folks experience a few ends of play! We typically host our Learn to Curl events on Sundays at noon on a couple of sheets of ice during the season alongside our College League. This has been advantageous because it’s reduced the risk of losing money on ice rental time (in a normal season, we have to have at least 18 people on the ice for a Learn to Curl event to not lose money). This means that it’s sometimes harder to have a Learn to Curl only event, although in Trials / Olympic years like this upcoming season is an exception because there is a much higher demand!

In our own facility, we could offer weekly Learn to Curl sessions at more convenient times and days (eg, Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday). We also want to offer more newcomer/instructional leagues—4-week mini-leagues where people learn the basics their first week and then play 3 games afterward with side-by-side mentoring from Aksarben instructors. We’ve found these newcomer/instructional leagues are a great way to recruit new folks and ensure they have confidence to enter regular leagues and events.

Private Learn to Curls
Aksarben offers private Learn to Curls for parties, corporate outings, and team building activities. We anticipate being able to offer these events more regularly at our own space during the week. For many organizations, this is a critical source of revenue to help sustain the facility! It also will require greater volunteer support and/or potentially a dedicated part-time coordinator.

Bonspiels
This is another big upside of having our own facility—we would be able to host multiple bonspiels throughout the season! Presently, we’re able to host one full bonspiel during the season, our annual Irish Open Bonspiel in March with 16 to 20 teams. The biggest challenge we face today is ice rental costs—it costs approximately $4,500 on ice rental time alone (20 hours) to host a multi-day tournament.

In our own facility, we could anticipate hosting three or four bonspiels each year. That could include the Irish Open plus other bonspiels such as a Novice Bonspiel (ie, 5&Under), a Women’s Bonspiel (in conjunction with the USWCA), a Mixed Doubles bonspiel, a College Bonspiel, or shorter-game Fun Spiels (eg, our Halloween costume-themed Bone-Spiel). Omaha could host regional events for the Mid America Curling Association, which could draw in attendees from Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Moreover, having higher-quality dedicated ice would make Omaha a more attractive bonspiel destination for curlers from states with more dedicated facilities (ie, Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin) who may skip arena-based curling clubs. We anticipate registration rates ranging from $80 to $100 for a traditional 3-game guarantee bonspiel, to $40 to $60 for smaller fun-spiels.

Practice Times
Many dedicated facilities offer their members the opportunity to schedule times to visit the rink and practice. Our former facility at the Aksarben Fairgrounds offered this! We anticipate being able to offer practice times as a perk of being a member at a future dedicated Aksarben Curling facility.

Cost for Leagues and Membership
We're developing multi-year operating budgets to examine what is financially feasible for a new facility. We want to balance keeping curling accessible and affordable, while also ensuring that membership and league fees cover the actual costs of operations, building maintenance, and paying down potential loans.

We are exploring different cost options concerning membership and league fees. We are currently looking at a flat fee that would include both your annual membership plus one fall league and one winter league. The flat fee could cover either an additional entire season (September/October through April) or just half of a season (first half / second half). For folks who want to add an additional concurrent league, we could offer a reduced price to register (eg, a 25% or 50% price break per additional league). When we surveyed our membership in February, 25% of respondents said they would be interested in curling in at least two leagues concurrently. It is important to stress that these numbers are in flux and have not been determined yet. If you have thoughts about membership and league fees, let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Price Breaks
We had a number of folks ask if we would continue to offer a lower rate for college curlers and youth/junior curlers. We plan to continue to offer a rate that would be cheaper than an adult membership. While these rates have not yet been determined, we believe it is important to ensure that youth and college curling remains affordable for families and young adults to play.

We are also considering the possibility of offering a ‘newcomer’ rate for people who are new to curling. This could be a discount for an individual’s first year curling with Aksarben Curling. We are still modeling what this could look like.

Curling Season
We’re tentatively planning that our season in a dedicated curling facility would run from September through April. Ice would be melted down at the end of April, and then the space could become available for rentals or nonprofit/private event partnerships. We’re really eager to hear ideas from the community about possible events or partnerships during the off season!

We feel that September is a good time to put in the ice and the end of April is a good time to melt it down. A plurality of respondents (47%) said they prefer to begin curling in October and 15% prefer to begin in September. We think September is a good time to offer newcomer/instructional leagues to recruit new folks for upcoming seasons, host member events for people to shake the dust off and practice being on the ice again, and perhaps host a beginning of season bonspiel or fun spiel to start things off. As far as ending the season, 28% of respondents want to end in March and 35% want to end in April.

At this time, we do not anticipate offering summer curling. Only 26% of people said they were interested in playing year-round. Besides not knowing demand for summer curling, a big unknown is utility costs to maintain ice during summer heat. We could anticipate potential summer options somewhere down the line, but we also recognize that as an all-volunteer organization having a down period helps with maintaining volunteers. Moreover, not running ice making equipment over the summer will help preserve the lifespan of our equipment. Finally, we think there are good opportunities for our facility to host private events or partnerships with community organizations from May through August, which would be a source of revenue to sustain the organization.

Broomstacking: A Dedicated Social Space, Bar, and Kitchen
We commonly heard people share that they would love for our future curling facility to have a dedicated ‘warm room’ social space for people to hang out before and after their games and to watch curling matches. We want that, too! This is a feature that is sorely lacking today, and a common problem for arena-based clubs like ours. While many of us head to Pauli’s or a nearby bar/restaurant after our matches, it’s not the same as having everyone socializing together in the same space. We also recognize that having gatherings off-site at a bar after games limits who is able or willing to come out.

Our current plans call for a dedicated social space for broomstacking and socializing built into our facility. The space would accommodate between 80 to 100 people, and include multiple tables seating 8 individuals (at least 9) so teams and their opponents can gather after their matches. We also anticipate having a bar/serving space that could accommodate serving non-alcoholic beverages and beer. On the former, we think it’s important to have non-alcoholic options available.

Our draft building plans include a catering kitchen to support food at bonspiels and private event rentals. We are also building in space for counters that could support crockpots. Our plans would also include some form of a serving space for a bar. We do not anticipate offering a full bar, but rather a bar with limited beer options as well as non-alcoholic options. This latter point we believe is especially important as we know there are many folks who do not drink alcohol, and we want to make sure that broomstacking opportunities do not preclude those who don’t drink.

Location
We’ve heard a wide array of responses from people on preferred locations for a dedicated facility. That included central/midtown Omaha where we have a large base of membership. That also included along I-80 to accommodate people traveling from west Omaha, Lincoln (where we draw a lot of members!), and from other places out of town. You might be surprised to learn that our club draws people from as far away as Sweard, Crete, Beatrice, and Plattsmouth to the south and west; Council Bluffs, Atlantic, and Des Moines to the east; and West Point, Wayne, and Sioux City to the north.

We would love to stay near the Aksarben neighborhood and our historical roots, but we know that land options are pretty limited these days. We would like to stay centrally located in the Omaha metro area, within close range of an interstate to accommodate those traveling from outside or around the metro area, and ideally in a place that is accessible and welcoming to new curlers and out of town guests. Ultimately, our options may be limited depending upon land availability and price.

We could use members’ help in identifying prospective locations and properties around town. Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have ideas!

Lockers and Changing Spaces
One of the design decisions we were assessing is how much locker space to offer and what kind of changing spaces are needed for curlers. More than 55% of respondents in our recent survey felt it was important or very important to offer lockers on site, and 38% felt they would be very or somewhat likely to rent a locker during the season.

As far as changing spaces goes, a majority (58%) said they don’t plan to change at the facility. For those who would like to change, 25% were ok with changing in a bathroom and 17% wanted a private space to change separate from a bathroom.

One of the big space tradeoffs we have is balancing having enough space for lockers, bathrooms, and private changing rooms. By adding private changing rooms, which may be underutilized, we lose space available for bathrooms and locker rooms that would be utilized far more. Our decision on this piece is to increase our locker capacity, make the locker space a unisex room, and offer a private changing room that can double as a single-room family bathroom or gender neutral bathroom (in addition to men’s and women’s bathrooms).

Do you have thoughts or ideas about a future Aksarben Curling facility? Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!


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