Curling Pop-Up in Bryant Park Offers COVID-Safe Competition

Stefano Giovannini

The New York Post
November 13, 2020
By Suzi Weiss

It’s getting chilly out, eh?

The curious Canadian sport of curling, which combines the fun of rocks with the joy of sweeping, is the latest edition to the Bryant Park’s annual Winter Village.

“We’ve never tried curling, but that could be a good option for us,” said Robert Breeman, 30, adding that the sport reminded him “of the Olympics and those guys with the squeegees.”

Breeman has celebrated his birthday at the park with his now-wife, Juliette, since they started dating five years ago.

“The first year we went ice skating and it was a miserable fail,” said Juliette, 28.

The Wyckoff, NJ-based couple, both accountants, won’t have to strap on skates at the Curling Café. Situated on the northeast side of the park, it boasts five “iceless” lanes made of slippery plastic. Curlers are given “stones” to sling at targets printed on the lane (known as “the house”), a la shuffleboard. Serious curlers use slabs of granite but here the stones are hard plastic with wheels on the bottom.

“We wanted to create activities for people who don’t want to ice skate,” Irene Vagianos, the brains behind the Curling Café, told The Post.

This year’s Winter Village features an ice rink, shops and a few new hangouts for the unusual season, such as heated igloos to lounge in while curling with your pandemic posse.

“This is something you can do with your friends to have fun and be active without being crowded in an indoor space,” she added.

Lanes must be reserved online for groups of up to eight people. Ninety minutes of curling will set you back $250 to $575, depending on the package, and include carafes of hot chocolate (or beer and wine if you upgrade) and bites like chicken fingers and brownie pops.

Posted signs and instructions explain the game and offer tips such as “Use a small back swing and release the rock as it touches the ice.”

The game of curling works like this: Two teams (and teams can be as small as one person, if a socially distanced date night is the goal) compete to get as close to a red-and-blue target as possible using the stones, while trying to knock opponents’ stones off course. The closer your stone is to the bullseye, the more points you get.

“It’s really easy to learn,” said Vagianos, who points out that a cafe host will be available to get novices up to speed.

And when it comes to precautions against COVID-19, Bryant Park is equipped: The clear plastic tents will be wiped down between each use and the curling gear will be sanitized. Online reservation information is used for contact tracing, and masks are a must outside of the individual igloos. Each group gets a dedicated lane, and each lane is more than 6 feet apart.

For parkgoers, all festive options are welcome.

“It’s usually a lot more crowded with more shops,” said Juliette Breeman. “But at least our favorite stall, Breezy Hill Orchard, [which sells] ginger snaps, is still here. It’s still Christmastime in New York.”