New Curling Facility in Wausau

Leaders of the Wausau Curling Club broke ground Thursday, May 10, 2012 on the $3 million, 40,000-square-foot venue that will feature eight sheets -- think hockey rinks, but for curlers -- of ice. The facility is being constructed on the eastern end of Kent Street in southeast Wausau.
The Wausau Curling Center will be built with state-of-the-art ice-making equipment that will create the best curling-specific ice possible, said Cal Tillisch, a Wausau attorney who was co-chairman of the committee that raised money to build the center. The venue also will be built to be as convenient as possible to people who use wheelchairs or have other disabilities.
It all means that Wausau is likely to attract national- and world-level competitions that will bring crowds of curlers, including Olympians, to the region.
"This will be the largest, finest, curling-specific facility in the United States of America," Tillisch said. "And it will be the only curling-specific curling facility with Olympic-sized sheets of ice."
You can expect Tillisch's excitement level to be off the charts. He's a 40-year curler who has loved the sport since he first threw a rock when he was a freshman in high school. But Tillisch's claim about what the new facility can do for Wausau is not hyperbole, said Rick Patzke, chief operating officer of the Stevens Point-based United States Curling Association.
"The size of the facility is conducive to our top national championship events, as well as a number of world championship events," Patzke said. "I think the advantage is its more central location in the midst of curling country."
Tillisch is quick to point out that all curlers who have represented the U.S. in Olympics have been from three states: Wisconsin, Minnesota and northern Illinois. "We have a natural geographic advantage," he said.
The facility can be compared to another world-class sporting venue -- Wausau's Whitewater Park. Kayaking and curling are nearly diametrically opposite as sports, but supporters say that both can do the same thing for the Wausau area -- bring in competitors from across the globe, raise the profile of central Wisconsin and help boost tourism.
"I don't doubt that a facility of this size is going to attract attention," said Thomas Vollstedt, secretary and future president of the Wausau Kayak/Canoe Corp., which organizes events at Whitewater Park. The curling facility is similar to the kayak course, he said. Both are "somebody's vision that they've carried to fruition. And the curlers will be just as successful as the paddlers here."
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