Today I abandoned the Reform CC members to their bonspiel at the Volvo Centre and headed out to the suburbs of Riga to see the city's new dedicated curling facility! Thanks to Janis Laizans (whose knickname is John, above, and who plays lead in the No 2 men's team in Latvia) for taking the time to drive me to see it. It was a miserable grey day. Indeed, it had been snowing earlier. But it was a warm welcome I received. And Janis is so enthusiastic about the rink.
The first stone was thrown in the rink as recently as September 24. It's a two sheeter, built on a brownfield site. Part of the building was once a warehouse, and a new front has been added.
Here's what it looks like inside. Simple but effective.
This is the communal bar/cafe area, with the kitchen, through the door on the right, in the process of being fitted out.
Spanking new, clean changing rooms. That will all change of course when Edzell Curling Club members visit here from Scotland later this month! (Seriously Edzell, you are going to have a great time in Latvia, as we have had. Advice - bring all the stamina you can muster!)
This is Artis Zentelis, the manager, as well as being the third player on the No 2 Latvian men's team. The facility will be run with a staff of two for this season. It's privately owned, and I understand that a large number of curlers have contributed to the costs of getting things going.
After a short lesson in the rink's classroom....
...I even got to play my first stone in Latvia! What a privilege. Good ice too.
But I think what gave me the biggest thrill was that this group was just finishing a 'come and try' session. Forty-six new curlers have come through the doors yesterday and today to give the sport a try, following a publicity drive.
I believe that Latvia has some 250 curlers, who play on hockey ice, sometimes at 6am. This new facility will be home now for many of them. There will be regular competitions, and the Latvian Championships will be staged in this new venue. There are no other dedicated curling sheets in the geographical region, and visiting teams are expected to use the kerlingahalle in Riga. And I'm sure other clubs from Scotland might be tempted to follow the example of Reform and Edzell and pay a visit too.
The enthusiasm is immense, and is to be admired. What a great sport we have! Best wishes to all involved in the project, and many happy years ahead.