Oak Creek man brings curling club to Routt County
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — John Hogan discovered curling by accident during a family reunion in upstate New York. Months later, with the help of some experts, the Oak Creek resident is launching the Steamboat Curling Club, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that will bring yet another new sport to Steamboat Springs.
“It’s one of those sports you can do if you’re 80 or 280 pounds. It’s a really inclusive winter sport,” he said. “Curling is one of those sports where it’s slightly more social than it is competitive.”
Hogan had learn-to-curl events scheduled for Friday, March 13, and Saturday, March 14, with Tom Whitman out of Denver Curling leading classes, but had to cancel due to coronavirus. He hopes to eventually reschedule once Howelsen Ice Arena reopens.
This summer, Hogan plans on hosting instructional classes for beginner curling athletes.
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“Instead of just having a show up and play, it’s chaos if nobody knows what’s going on, it’s kind of crazy,” said Hogan. “Our plan is to do a couple of those, get some members of the community involved and excited about it and then go from there.”
Hogan is also bringing in Olympic gold medalist Tyler George, who was part of the men’s olympic curling team that won gold in Pyeongchang in 2018. George has agreed to come to Steamboat this summer and fall to potentially speak with schools and clubs to help hype up the sport.
Hogan’s discovery of the sport wasn’t entirely intentional.
While at a family reunion in upstate New York, Hogan had a few hours to kill, so he went searching for something to do. The Schenectady Curling Club was on his radar, since he had been following their site renovations via social media. Wanting to see the snazzy new facility, he drove over, and to his pleasant surprise, there was a learn to curl event going on.
While learning how to play, he met people who encouraged him to start his own club back in Colorado and put him in touch with the right people.
Hogan’s first phone call was to Russ Lemcke, who was inducted into the USA Curling Hall of Fame in 2018. Lemcke has started dozens of curling clubs, but mostly on the east coast. He put Hogan in touch with JD Wise, who began the Telluride Curling Club in 2015. Wise forwarded Hogan to Rich and Beth Lepping, who hold massive roles in the curling community, but also happen to own a home in Steamboat.
Rich, who was previously the interim CEO of the United States Curling Association, and Beth, who is the current president of the United States Women’s Curling Association, live in Wisconsin, but plan to start spending even more time in Steamboat. The curling couple is thrilled to have co-founded the club and have Hogan doing the ground work in their second home.
“The sport is the fastest growing Olympic winter sport in the country, we think that Steamboat would be the perfect spot,” said Rich. “The demographics are great, the Olympic movement and history in Steamboat with the skiing is legendary. We just think it’s time for curling to get there.”
The Leppings, who have enjoyed the sport for 25 years, not only provided their knowledge about how to create a club, but also donated 32 curling stones to the club.
“One of the great things about curling is it’s one of the great equalizers in sports,” said Beth. “Women and men can play together equally. Men don’t have a significant advantage as in a lot of other sports. It’s fun that we can all do it together.”
With a handful of curling all stars in his corner, Hogan began using their blueprints to start up his own club in the Yampa Valley.
Curling would offer Steamboat athletes a new gateway to the winter games, since it’s an Olympic sport. That makes teaching the sport a little more complicated, though. Hogan and a few of his friends recently took a class to be Level 1 certified, so when the curling club takes off, they are able to teach people the sport.
“They want consistency of instruction. It’s not really something you can jump up and do,” said Hogan. “They really want you to stick to these points and your ABC’s of delivery and all these things. It’s great that we now have certified instructors up here, we won’t have to sub out the guys in Denver. We can do it all up here.”
Steamboat is just the latest city in Colorado to get on board with the growing sport, as Aspen, Telluride, Denver, Broadmoor and Poudre all have curling clubs. Craig even has a league based out of the Moffat County Ice Rink.
“(With) the healthy environment, the athletic environment in Steamboat, it’s just a natural fit, it’s a no-brainer,” said Rich.
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