© WCF / Lee Mann Photography

England’s trendy curling rink – The Flower Bowl – quadruples membership in first year

While football may have the heart of the average Brit, curling is slowly pushing its way into the lives of many newcomers – particularly in Northern England.

England’s newest curling rink, The Flower Bowl Entertainment Centre, recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. The dedicated four-sheet facility became England’s second curling rink when it opened last August at Brock, in Lancashire, north west England.

In addition to curling, the complex includes a three-screen cinema, a crazy golf course, eight lanes of ten pin bowling, two golf simulators, a coffee shop and two restaurants.

The new rink was adopted by Preston Curling Club, who’s members now play regularly at The Flower Bowl. It’s already piqued the interest of non-curlers previously enjoying the multi-purpose facility, who wouldn’t be exposed to curling otherwise.

Guy Topping, owner of The Flower Bowl Entertainment Centre said, “Our club, which is the oldest in England, formed in 1871, had just 20 members when we opened and now boasts over 90.

“The Flower Bowl opened on a site already occupied by Barton Grange Garden Centre and Marina which have been there for 11 years,” said Topping. “It was deemed that there would be good synergy between the two businesses and The Flower Bowl was developed in a way to appeal to the core garden centre customers.”

Since opening, The Flower Bowl has had great success in having new curlers walk through the front door. Participants are eager to get onto the ice and play a few ends – even if it’s all new to them.

“Most of our members are new so they just join in. Any new curlers who want to start, do a two-hour session training programme four times before being invited to join the club,” explained Topping.

Curling parties seem to be the fan favourite thus far, which brings non-curlers to the rink and gives them a taste of the fun to be had. Participants are introduced to the sport, receive some basic training and then play a few ends. In addition to parties, The Flower Bowl also offers ‘Try Curling’ sessions, wheelchair curling and various bonspiels with ice available all year round.

Stepping Stones programme visits

Unlike in Scotland, their bordering neighbour, curling in England is still under development and growing each year. Despite this, they are taking the proper strides in making their competitive mark on the curling map. In August, the World Curling Federation’s Stepping Stones programme was hosted at The Flower Bowl.

Women’s, men’s and mixed doubles teams from England and Wales participated in both on and off-ice exercises. England’s wheelchair curlers benefited from specific training sessions as well.

Over the last four years, Stepping Stones has had a positive impact on the high performance programmes in Estonia, Australia, New Zealand and Latvia raising the awareness of curling.

“England and Wales have had limited access to dedicated curling ice over the years. With the opening of The Flower Bowl in Preston, England, they now have the training facilities to practice what was learned during the Stepping Stones programme. This alone will be monumental in their chances to succeed,” said World Curling Federation’s Head of Development, Scott Arnold.

“Barton Grange’s new facility is a model of what a dedicated curling facility could look like in the future. It is part of a larger entertainment complex allowing the public to be exposed to the sport in a unique and fun atmosphere. I can only see the interest in the sport growing in this area of England because of The Flower Bowl.”

English Curling Association President, Andrew Reed, believes having a dedicated curling facility open year-round will benefit all curlers nationwide.

“Members throughout the country can use The Flower Bowl to practice for 12 months of the year, a major advantage when championships are now being run in the early part of the curling season,” said Reed.

“It was important that the Stepping Stones programme came to the Flower Bowl because it highlighted to the local club that there were opportunities to use the facility for such events. A number of people came along just to watch the top-flight athletes going through their paces.”

The overall combination of inclusivity, availability and exposure at The Flower Bowl seems to be the ideal combination for the English Curling Association to not only generate local interest, but house England’s elite curlers.

“This second facility in England complements the Fenton Curling Rink in the South of the country in Kent, where their junior curling programme has been very successful. We hope both successes will encourage other venues to be developed,” said Reed.

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Lancashire, England

4 October 2019