BELFAST, Maine — Six months after a burst pipe flooded and badly damaged the Belfast Curling Club, repairs are coming along well and members are gearing up for a good season on the ice with an on-time opening.
Ken Gordon, a board member who heads up the building and grounds committee, said that the club is making progress and is hoping to have the repairs substantially completed by the end of October. The club is already taking registrations for its first “Learn to Curl” sessions, scheduled to take place on Saturday, Nov. 6 and Sunday, Nov. 7. It’s also gearing up for the annual Maine-iac Bonspiel, which will be held from Thursday, Nov. 11 to Sunday, Nov. 14.
“We know we won’t have it 100 percent complete,” Gordon said. “But we should be able to have it set up so that people aren’t inconvenienced at all.”
The Belfast Curling Club, which has about 175 active members, usually hosts teams of curlers to the ice throughout the winter for practices and competitions, which are called bonspiels. But last winter, Belfast curlers played outside instead of indoors in order to be safer because of the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s why it took several days before anyone noticed that the pipe had burst and allowed the water to flood the building unimpeded.
“It was like a Turkish bath,” Gordon said earlier this year about opening up the building and discovering the flood damage. “There was a leak, and it was spraying water … The hot water pipe basically put all this steamy water into the building.”
Damage to the club’s upper level, where the bar and the warm room are located, was mostly confined to the floors. The ice area, where curling happens, was OK. But on the lower level, where the locker rooms, machinery and storage rooms are located, the damage was bad enough that much of it had to be gutted. A professional demolition and cleaning crew worked for several weeks to clean out the lower floor, using commercial dehumidifiers, vacuums and more to prevent more mildew from forming.
“We had a lot to do,” Gordon said. “We had to tear up the basement.”
The upper level floors have been replaced and a specialized sump pump has been installed in the basement. A group of women curlers has been working on the layout of the new women’s locker and changing room area as well, Gordon said. The club is taking the opportunity to make improvements to the building where it’s possible.
Earlier this year, he estimated that the repairs could cost as much as $250,000, with its insurer paying for some — but definitely not all — of the costs. The club has made strides with an online fundraiser, so far having raised more than $52,000 of its $148,000 goal.
“We have had some success there,” Gordon said.
Donations have come from Mainers who curl there, as well as from other curling clubs all over the U.S. and Canada. Curlers share a special bond, Belfast Curling Club members said. The sport, which originated in Scotland in the 16th century, is one of the world’s oldest team sports and has been a medal sport in the Winter Olympics since the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan.
In it, teams vie against each other to score points as people slide 42-pound granite stones to the other side of the ice sheet. Players vigorously sweep the ice with brooms to keep the stones moving.
Socializing and camaraderie is an important aspect of curling, members have said, which helps explain why people who live and curl elsewhere have contributed to the fundraiser.
“The Curling Community is truly amazing, and we are grateful every day that we can be a part of it,” Faith Hague, who is organizing the GoFundMe, posted in an update earlier this month.
Steve McLaughlin, the membership chair for the Belfast Curling Club, said this week that officials will be taking COVID-19 precautions, including having people show proof of vaccination before they can come in the building.
“We’re planning to keep people socially distanced, which is kind of hard in curling,” he said, adding that the pandemic hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for the sport. “It’s an awesome sport, and everyone who tries it loves it.”