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Olympics

Curling in Irvine? New commission set to lure sports events to Orange County

USA’s Matt Hamilton John Landsteiner compete during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics.
USA’s Matt Hamilton (L) and USA’s John Landsteiner compete during the curling men’s gold-medal game during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on Feb. 24, 2018.
(Francois-Xavier Marit / AFP/Getty Images)

Curling? In Orange County?

Of the national and international sports events on their way to Orange County, curling could be the most intriguing, the Winter Olympics niche sport that involves a stone, a broom and a sheet of ice.

Try it? You can next August, at Curling Night in America, a USA Curling event set for the Great Park ice rinks in Irvine.

That event could lead to national curling competitions there. And, with Tuesday’s announcement of the formation of the Orange County Sports Commission, there is a group dedicated to luring such events to the county.

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Major competitions are nothing new in Orange County. The Honda Center in Anaheim this year played host to the NCAA Sweet 16 and the Four Continents figure skating championship, and U.S. Swimming last year held its national championship in Irvine. In addition, the U.S. men’s and women’s national volleyball teams train in Anaheim, and the U.S. national water polo team has agreed to move to a new facility in Irvine.

Although the visitors’ bureaus of Anaheim, Irvine, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Costa Mesa and Dana Point are affiliated with the new sports commission in pitching the county as a destination for sports events in a region with world-class beaches and resorts, the focus might well turn out to be on Anaheim.

With the 2020 Tokyo Games only eight months away, long-troubled USA Badminton might now lose its status as the national governing body for the sport.

The Ducks and Angels are working on plans to develop the area around their venues into an entertainment district stretching from the Honda Center and across the Orange Freeway to Angel Stadium. That could turn Katella Avenue into a major destination, from Disneyland to the existing sports venues and new facilities that would sprout up around them, with the hotel rooms that support the theme parks and convention center already available.

The Ducks and Angels are not planning the developments together, but they are expected to make sure their plans do not duplicate one another.

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“Whatever development happens around the Honda Center and Angel Stadium will have to be compatible and to the benefit of both organizations and the millions of fans who will attend events there for decades to come,” said Tim Ryan, chief executive of the Honda Center and chairman of the new Orange County Sports Commission.

Orange County venues previously had worked with Los Angeles-based organizations dedicated to attracting sports events throughout Southern California.

“It feels like the right time for us to have our own sports commission,” Ryan said.

And, for anyone unable to wait for next summer to try curling, leagues are up and running in Irvine.


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