Curling is family time for Greg Gunderson.
An assistant dean for Business and Fiscal Affairs in the College of Engineering, Gunderson has been curling for about 25 years. Today, as a member of the Aksarben Curling Club, he’s following in his father’s footsteps and drawing family to the ice.
"My dad grew up curling in the Iron Range up in Minnesota," said Gunderson. "He moved down here to Nebraska when he was in his 20s. When I was in high school, we discovered there was curling at Aksarben. I’ve been playing most of the years since."
His first four-member team consisted of Gunderson, his father, sister and brother. They competed on a sheet of ice formed inside two horse stalls at the old Aksarben grounds in Omaha.
Gunderson said Aksarben’s sponsorship of curling came about from a promise made by an Omaha mayor.
"The City of Omaha was in negotiations to build an AT&T plant off 120th and L streets," Gunderson said. "They brought some engineers down from Canada (who) asked if curling was available in Omaha. The mayor didn’t know what curling was, but he said yes."
To satisfy the needs of the workers, Aksarben supplied space for the game. "That’s how curling came to Omaha," said Gunderson. "Aksarben has been associated with it the entire time."
For league play on March 7, Gunderson played with his brother, nephew and son. Though the game was cut short by an open house, the Gundersons won 5-1.
"Every given Sunday, we’ll have four members of our family out here on the ice playing," said Gunderson. "This is the first year my son has been out here. Next year, my youngest will start playing and it will be me, my wife and our boys out on the ice together."
"I look forward to that because, to me, curling has always been about family. That’s what I really enjoy about it."
The sportsmanship of the game also makes it a family-friendly environment.
"There are never arguments on the ice," said Gunderson. "It’s a very collegial atmosphere. It’s a sport where people act like gentlemen and ladies."
After their March 7 game, the Gunderson team stayed into the early evening to help with an Aksarben Curling Club open house at the Moylan IcePlex in Omaha. Nearly 500 individuals showed up for the event. Organizers expected around 30 to attend.
Some club members credited the Olympic games for the increased interest. Others shrugged shoulders and smiled when asked about the numbers. But all stayed late and demonstrated over and over again how the game was played.
"It’s one of those sports that is very easy to get into. All you really need is a clean pair of tennis shoes. Everything else is provided," said Gunderson. "And, there’s always someone around to give some advice or instruction."
"It’s a great sport that just about anyone can come out and play."