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Curling championships come to Jacksonville

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 2016 USA Curling National Championship is underway at the Veterans Memorial Arena.

The top 10 men's curling teams in the country are competing in the event as well as the top eight woman's teams. The winning teams will represent the United States in the world championships.

The festivities started with practice over the weekend and will finish up with the men's finals on Saturday.

Curling might be foreign to Floridians since its sport played on the ice. The sport was invented in Scotland and can be traced back to 1541.

The game is played by taking large polished stones and pushing them across the ice on to a target.

At first glance one might make the observation that the game is basically shuffleboard on ice, curling actually is a lot more complicated.

Curling isn't an individual sport.  A curling team consists of four members, the lead, the second, the vice and the skip. All members get an opportunity to throw the stone and they trade off taking shifts sweeping for other player's shots.

Sweeping is where the sport gets intense.

When a stone is thrown, the sweepers chase it staying just ahead of it while literally sweeping the ice with brooms.

They do this to influence the speed and trajectory of the stones path which is something that takes years of practice and experience to do effectively.

Points are scored in the game by which ever team has gotten one of their stones closest to the center ring, or "button" at the end of a round or "end".

The concept is simple but watching professional game play is mind boggling.

Going to the national championship event could be a unique experience for anyone unfamiliar with the sport.

At the stadium alongside the competition, a Community Curling Challenge will be hosted for local teams on Saturday Feb. 13.

For those interested learning to curl a "Learn to Curl" zone will be set up all through the event.

On top of the curling, the arena will also be featuring themes for a few days of the competition.

Monday is Margaritaville Monday with $2 margaritas, Tuesday is Twofer Tuesday and will feature Canadian beer and Wednesday is Wine Down Wednesday.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday features the business person special. 

In addition on all three of those days ticket prices are $15 for all-day admission to the event as well as the choice of a burger or hot dog, chips and a drink.