Curling Up with a Good …Rock

World-class competitor Pete Westberg shares his enthusiasm for the growing sport of curling.

Elite competitors IN THE SPORT OF CURLING don’t achieve the fame and fortune of athletes in some of the more prominent sports. So longtime Woodbury resident Pete Westberg isn’t expecting any million-dollar endorsement deals. But he’s proud of having represented the USA in the Senior Men’s World Curling Championship last spring in Karlstad, Sweden, with his four-member team from the St. Paul Curling Club—the national champions.

Westberg first got into the sport as a 24-year-old in Wausau, Wis., after being transferred there by his employer, 3M. Wausau is a curling hotbed, with the largest curling facility in the nation. Westberg says, “My boss was a big-time curler, and he told me I was going to be on the curling team. I said, ‘Yes, sir.’”

Westberg says his experience playing hockey gave him good balance on the ice, vital to success in curling. He found the competitive aspects appealing, and also the camaraderie. “You meet so many kinds of people in curling,” he says. “And there is something called ‘the spirit of curling.’ You police yourself; there are no judges except at the highest levels. You call your own fouls.”

In curling, which originated in late Medieval Scotland, four-player teams slide a polished granite stone weighing 42.5 pounds on an ice sheet toward a target area divided into four concentric circles. “Sweeping does not make the rock go faster,” Westberg says. “You are slightly melting the ice as the rock travels and clears ice particles so it will go straighter and farther.”

Westberg found he had a knack for the sport; his team went to the 1983 Wisconsin state championships. Now a member of the St. Paul Curling Club’s board of directors, he’s involved in an early-stage effort to develop a curling club in Woodbury. The sport has grown since becoming an Olympic sport in 1998; the Twin Cities now has five curling clubs.

Local advocates point to the success of Chaska’s new curling club, which opened in December 2015. Its early popularity exceeded city officials’ five-year projections, says Westberg, who still plays weekly in the winter. “They filled the thing up in two weeks. We thought, ‘Why can’t we do the same thing in Woodbury?’ We’re guessing that interest would be high here, too.”

Curler Al Taylor, a Woodbury resident for 50 years, has thought “for a long time” that a curling club would be a good addition to Woodbury’s recreation scene. About 15 years ago, he made some inquiries at City Hall and has been part of recent discussions, along with Westberg and another local curler, Dale Gibbs. The group’s next step would be to put together a financial plan based on “reasonable projections” on how much a center might cost, says Taylor, who grew up curling in the western Canadian province of Saskatchewan.

Dave Black, manager of Bielenberg Sports Center, said that as of now, a curling center is not on the city’s “wish list.” Black has tried curling and considers it “a great sport.” The city would consider trying curling on one of its two indoor rinks, if there was enough local interest and “if we could fit it in the schedule for a trial run.”

To learn more about the sport of curling, go to the website here.