22 Feb 2021

Brush Up on Curling at HBS


by Shona Simkin

Right now, the outdoors is our friend. We’re going on walks, sitting on heated patios, and lighting up fire pits to safely gather with friends and family. Now, we can add another outdoor activity to the list of safe and fun activities: curling.

A new curling lane has taken center stage at the Schwartz Pavilion at HBS, and is open for anyone during standard operating hours of 7:00 am to 11:00 pm. Madeline Meehan, director of campus activation, brought the idea to the HBS Operations team at the beginning of the year, and by February 5, the lane was in place.

“With the pandemic social distancing safety measures, we wanted to offer another way for students and the community to be active outside. Curling has a great history in places where cold-weather activities are an essential part of the culture, so our HBS Connects team put our heads together with the MBA Student Activities and Operations teams, and are thrilled that we have another way to celebrate winter at HBS,” said Meehan.

After consulting with the Harvard University team overseeing the winter activities at the Science Center Plaza, HBS Operations learned that one of their tent vendors had created the curling rink at the Boston Seaport. With that rink as inspiration, the vendors worked with Operations to source synthetic ice (safer and easier to maintain) and build a level platform. The lane was designed to be as user-friendly as possible. HBS facilities and custodial services ensure that the rink is kept clear of actual ice and snow, no brooms are necessary—which also allows for appropriate social distancing—and the curling stones are light enough for children to enjoy. All one needs is a sense of adventure (and a mask) to toss the curling stones down the lane.

Photo credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard University

“Building the curling lane was an opportunity to support efforts to encourage outdoor gathering and to experiment with activities that we may want to carry over into next winter,” said Andrew Falzone, senior director of campus and event services.

As a newly minted teacher in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Executive Director of Knowledge and Library Services Deb Wallace learned how to curl when she joined the St. Vital Teacher’s Curling League, earning the ‘Rookie of the Year’ pin her first year on the ice (she notes with a laugh that she was the only rookie that year). “We had weeks at a time where it was -40 Fahrenheit, so we had to find ways to stay active in the cold,” recalled Wallace. “There was a very vibrant curling community in my school division, and it was a way to socialize, meet people, and be part of a culture. It’s a great sport, and another way to celebrate winter.”

During his time at Kodak in Rochester, New York, Professor Willy Shih was known for leading curling excursions with his management team to illustrate an important lesson in forecasting. In annual planning cycles, Shih noted that as soon as revenue and expense commitments were made, team members raced ahead to change them. “It’s really like curling, when players run out to change the course of the stone after launching it. It’s very, very difficult to change that course, and much easier to do an accurate job launching.”

On Thursday, February 25 at 4:00 pm, members of the Harvard Curling Team will join Meehan in conversation about the sport’s history, basic strategy, rules, and terminology. Harvard College senior Jack Schroeder joined the team his freshman year after a “learn to curl” event and was soon traveling throughout the Northeast for bonspiels (curling tournaments).

“Curling is an easy sport to pick up, but hard to master—that lowers the barrier of entry and keeps more experienced curlers coming back,” said Schroeder. The club is open to all Harvard undergraduate and graduate students, regardless of experience. “The team is excited for the "Olympic bump" in interest next February—and we are always looking for new curlers. The new sheet at HBS will be a great introduction to the game, and those of us near campus can't wait to mask up and try it out!

Register for the February 25 event, and watch this two-minute animated video guide to curling.

Venture outside with additional winter activities hosted at HBS:

  • Hot Chocolate Happy Hour, Wednesdays from 2:30-4:00 pm at the Schwartz Pavilion
  • Borrow snowshoes and sleds from Shad’s loan program (no membership required),
  • Enjoy colorful outdoor lighting and patio heaters throughout campus.

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