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Traverse City area has two curling facilities, but Michigan taxpayers will pay $2M to build a third

Pork Friday: Taxpayer funds give curling club an unfair advantage over privately funded curling facility

Even though there are two existing facilities in the Traverse City area, a non-profit named the Traverse City Curling Club is using $2 million in taxpayer funds to build a third ice facility in the area.

A public ice arena already exists in the Grand Traverse Area, and the club has used it for years. There is also the Leelanau Curling Club, a privately-funded dedicated ice facility 20 minutes from downtown Traverse City. It opened in 2019.

To effectively curl, it is better to have dedicated ice that is only used for the sport, says David Gersenson, who built the Leelanau Club. The club is connected to the Broomstack Kitchen & Taphouse, a restaurant.

Gersenson says he was a member of the Traverse City Curling Club until recently. He invested his own money in a facility where only curling is allowed as a way to protect the integrity of the ice and offer a better experience to curlers.

Gersenson invited the Traverse City Curling Club to rent his arena, since it has better ice than the public facility. The club, however, continued to use the public ice arena, which also hosts public skating and hockey.

When the Leelanau facility opened, the community responded well. Then the pandemic happened, which hurt business.

Through it all, Gersenson said his business has seen an increase in visitors since the end of summer. Last year it eked out a profit for the first time. A third, taxpayer-supported facility, however, could bring a downturn in business.

The Traverse City Curling Club’s website says it is raising $7.4 million for a 28,000 square foot facility. Its plans show many bells and whistles, in addition to the dedicated curling ice.

Kevin T. Byrne, vice president of the curling club, told Michigan Capitol Confidential that before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were roughly 150 members. The end of the season in April 2022 saw that number decrease to 120 members.

A study commissioned by the club projects the number will grow to 600 within a few years after the new, taxpayer-supported project is completed.

There was no response by Traverse City Curling Club to an email from CapCon seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.