Staff Reporter 

Say again? Curling nationals coming to Cheney

Just how did the U.S. championships come to Eastern Washington University’s recreation center in 2020?


November 29, 2018

Many people find it surprising that Cheney has an ice rink in the first place.

It’s one of just four sheets of ice — Spokane’s ice ribbon not included — in an area between here and Coeur d’Alene. And it is all thanks to the students of Eastern Washington University who are paying for it with their investment in the University Recreation Center, which opened 10 years ago.

But that community is likely to get more notoriety for its ice sheet in the coming months and years, for sure following its hosting of the Men’s and Women’s National Curling Championships taking place Feb. 8–15, 2020, at URC.

Cheney and EWU beat out Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the honor. The 2019 nationals are taking place in February at Wings Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich. EWU also bid on that event.

“We are excited to be bringing these championships to Spokane, not only because we are confident it will be a world-class event, but also because we constantly strive to help curling thrive in new areas around the country,” Rick Patzke, chief executive officer, USA Curling said in a news release announcing the event.

Working in conjunction with the Spokane Sports Commission, Eastern had bid before on hosting the event, URC operations manager Jamie Gwinn said. “Last year, together, we bid on the 2018 mixed-doubles curling national championships. They just had a little hesitation bringing an event someplace that had not hosted curling before.”

USA Curling was impressed enough to say, “We want to see you guys back in this mix again,” Gwinn said.

Having this their second trip down the road, Gwinn said they knew what to expect.

“We scoped out some facilities that had hosted before,” Gwinn said. “We really did our homework, we hit this one out of the ballpark this time.”

Essentially the same bid as before was resubmitted and it was accepted. USA Curling sent out top officials, including its president and head of ice-making operations. “They were absolutely blown away,” Gwinn said

Past experience being part of big events, such as the 2008 and 2010 National Figure Skating Championships, was a plus to the bid. The URC staff had also previously bid on an American Collegiate Hockey Association All-Star game.

“We knew what it involves to basically ‘wow people,’” Gwinn said.

When USA Curling visited the site, having the various university department heads present who might play a part in the event present was a big plus, Gwinn said.

“When they came down, I was able to get the electricians, get the guys from HVAC, just get all the departments here so that any questions that were out of my realm, they were right there,” Gwinn said.

There’s an amount of uncertainty, particularly with fan interest and that’s because of location, Gwinn explained. He cited lacrosse, and of course curling, as similar from the standpoint in that both are relatively new and growing activities in the region.

But in the coming 15 months the Sports Commission plans to do what it can to make sure people know about the event.

The URC has seating for 1,000, but Gwinn said if needed they can add capacity on the ice since the rinks — or the lanes that contain targets known as “houses” — do not take up the entire surface. There will be five lanes that measure 150-feet by 16-feet, 5-inches wide on the 200-foot by 85-foot ice surface.

“Spokane has always been good about rallying around these events, especially when you put the word ‘national’ in front of it,” Gwinn said.

The weeklong national event features the top men’s and women’s teams in the country and helps determine Team USA for the subsequent World Championships. The 2020 World Women’s Championship will take place in Canada while the 2020 World Men’s Championship heads to the sport’s home country—Scotland.

“Spokane is proud to be chosen for USA Curling National Championships in 2020,” Eric Sawyer, CEO of the Spokane Sports Commission said. “What an exciting time for the sport, with continuous growth and popularity worldwide. Spokane will pair nicely with the crowd-pleasing culture of curling.”

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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