THE HOME of Scottish curling has undergone a £1 million refurbishment that has secured the future of world’s oldest curling society.
Kinross Curling Trust, which was established in 1668, had faced homelessness as the ice-making equipment at the Green Hotel Golf and Leisure Resort in Kinross was so dated it would have effectively become illegal in 2015 when new European regulations coming into force.
After a transformation costing almost £1 million - and the installation of 13 kilometres of new freezing pipes - players flocked to the Green Hotel at the weekend to see the difference for themselves.
There are hopes that the venue will now be able to attract some of the UK’s biggest events, a dream bolstered by the calibre and number of teams attracted to the weekend’s Kinross Junior Classic.
The Kinross club is believed to be the oldest curling society in the world, with bonspiels taking place on the ice of Loch Leven as far back as 1668.
However, the rink had been blighted by money worries in recent years, with huge sums needed to secure its continued operation and bring it up to standard.
When ambitious plans for the creation of a national curling academy in Kinross fell through in summer 2012, there were warnings that the sport locally had less than three years before its very survival would be called into question.
Now, thanks to the work of Kinross Curling Trust (KCT), the dedication of members, local clubs and individuals, and the support of sportscotland, the doomsday scenario has been averted.
The curling rink was built in 1977 to provide activities at the Green Hotel leisure resort during low season for golf and the close season for fishing.
The hotel became unable to continue bankrolling the facility and its condition started to deteriorate.
The biggest blow came with the news that new European legislation on coolant was to make the facility’s old and outdated refrigeration plant illegal.
The answer to all those problems came in the form of the KCT, which took over the curling rink in September 2013 and set about securing its future.
In a bid to retain the popular curling rink, the trust has took on a 50-year lease and began frantically raising funds to pay for the upgrades.
It fought a race against time to secure investment but finally succeeded and the rink has undergone a spectacular rejuvenation over the summer.
The work has delighted rink manager Steven Kerr, who said: “The transformation has been quite incredible.
“Curlers have been flocking through the doors since we reopened and everyone has been hugely impressed with the renovations that have taken place.
“It is no overstatement to say that the rink was in very real danger of being forced to close, which would have been a tragedy.
“Now it almost seems like a new building. We have new plant, new ice and lighting, a new ceiling and even new walls - the difference is almost difficult to believe.
“Hopefully in the future we can attract even more top level competition.”
The ice is extremely busy, with the rink staging competitions, club visits, training sessions and come-and-try events, and visitor numbers are up on last year.
Steven added: “It really is fantastic to know that we will now be here for years to come. “Kinross is reputed to be the home of the oldest curling club in the world, so it really is the home of Scottish curling.”
Nearly 40 curling clubs and 1500 active players use the Kinross rink each season, including a successful junior club.
The renovation works were undertaken over the April to September off-season and saw the building stripped back to its steel frame.
After the floor was excavated, it was rebuilt with concrete, incorporating various layers, including heating to avoid ground heave, insulation and 13 kilometres of pipes carrying the refrigerant.
The walls and roof are now insulated and a new ice plant, boilers and ducting for air and heating have been installed. A new electricity sub-station also had to be built.