CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte is about to become one of the southernmost cities with a dedicated facility to a traditionally northern sport: curling.

On February 28, the Charlotte Curling Associationbought the land for a new curling center in Charlotte on Old Statesville Road just north of Sunset Road, and plans to start construction this month. The 16,500 sq. ft. building would housefour curling sheets, as well as a kitchen, locker rooms, and a warm area for people to watch. Two donors within the club have agreed to pay for the land and part of the construction. The club says it has enough money to open the doors in the fall, but is still about $223,000 short of its $750,000 fund raising goal says Steve McKee, the club's president.

When it's finished, McKee believes it'll be one of the world's southernmost curling facilities (A curling center in Tempe, Ariz. is set to open this month. Its latitude is about two degrees further south than Charlotte). An official groundbreaking is set for later this month, and the club hopes to have it up and running by November. At first, the new facility will be open only during the traditional curling season, October to April, to save money on energy, but McKee hopes to have it open year-round in the future.

Curling is played by sliding large smooth stones toward a concentric group of rings. Each team has eight stones, and they get points for each stone that's closest to the center of the rings. It looks like shuffleboard, scores like horseshoes, and it plays like chess, says McKee.

The club had been playing at Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail, but McKee says scheduling conflicts made it tough find time to play. The quality of the ice, which is also used for hockey, figure skating and broomball, has also been an issue. For a 42-pound rock going down the ice, just a difference of 1/16 of an inch or less would make it careen off the ice, says McKee. This will be an Olympic quality surface.

The Charlotte Curling Association now has 94 members, and was founded in 2010 after the Vancouver Winter Olympics. My wife and I said 'Wow, that's cool. I wonder if there's curling in Charlotte?' says McKee. It kinda morphed as a group into what we have today.

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