"My name is Karrie Gottschild and I have a curling problem," the head of membership at the Chicago Curling Club told a room full of guests on Sunday afternoon.
As the tornado warning sirens blared outside, about 40 people were happily wobbling across a sheet of ice at the Northbrook facility during a public "Learn2Curl" event. Most of the guests had been on a waiting list for two years for a chance to try the Olympic sport.
The club's interior looks like an old European banquet hall. Amenities include a bar, fireplace, television, couches and long, dining tables. The main chamber consists of four, 146 ft. ice sheets, where members can curl every day — and have been for 64 years.
Every few months, the club hosts a public "Learn2Curl" session, where members introduce prospective newcomers to the centuries-old sport. Guests learn how to sweep a stone on its way to the house, and various other jargon.
"It's a hell of a lot harder than it looks," said Ann Johnston, 52, of Barrington. "It's actually athletic. I'm going to be sore tomorrow."
According to Gottschild, whose family has been part of the club for generations, the sport is an athletic equalizer — suitable for people ages 8 to 80. That doesn't make it easy, though.
"You have muscles that are going to hurt tomorrow that you don't even know exist," one of the club members told guests during an exercise.
Among the sport's many selling points is the camaraderie and community it creates. Members come to the club for curling, but stay for the food and drinks. They call it broomstacking and, traditionally, the losing teams buys the winners a bowl of whiskey.
No wonder the waiting list lasts two years.