Curling club ready for Canadian Open
Canadian Olympic skip Rachel Homan headlines the list of 11 rinks bound for PeoyanChang, South Korea for the Winter Games that will also be competing in Camrose at the Meridian Canadian Open from Jan. 16-21. Anil Mungal/Sportsnet
In five days the best curlers in the world will be sliding out of the hack in Camrose, but preparations for the Meridian Canadian Open have been in full swing for six months.
The third stop on the Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling will run from Jan. 16-21 at Encana Arena with trucks pulling in to begin converting the arena to pebbled ice on Friday.
Local organizers cannot wait for the first rock to be thrown.
"It is exciting for us to have world class athletes come into our community, not just from Canada, but across the world," said host committee chairman Neil Bratrud. "It is some major notoriety for our community and our club too."
Kristi Petrushchak, the senior manager of the Grand Slam of Curling for Sportsnet, said these week-long events have a major economic spinoff for the communities that host them. She estimates in an upfront boost of about $1.2 to 1.3 million, but the long-term effects will be even bigger due to the city receiving more than 27 hours of national television exposure. There will be 11 draws of the triple-knock out Canadian Open broadcast live across Canada.
"That in itself to promote the City of Camrose is huge," she said. "It’s a big undertaking but they get a big reward at the end."
The facility and the Rose City Curling Club's history as hosts of five previous national-level curling events were big selling points for the Grand Slam of Curling organizers.
The Canadian Open will feature the top 16 men's and top 16 women's teams in the world according to the World Curling Tour order of merit rankings. Among the qualifying teams will be 11 teams heading to the Olympics in PeoyongChang South Korea in February, including Canadian entries Rachel Homan and Kevin Koe. This will be the final warm up for these 11 rinks before the Olympics giving curling fans an inside look at what to expect at the Winter Games.
"We're expecting their best here and it's going to be very exciting to see them sharpening up for the Olympics," said Bratrud.
Curlers are considered some of the most approachable athletes in sport. They are not millionaires and are much more grounded in the understanding of the sports' place and connection with local clubs and curlers.
The Grand Slam of Curling has taken advantage of this with the Pinty's On Ice Pub, which ropes off the extra space at one end of the arena at ice level and turns it into a place where fans can watch while having a few beers and appetizers. It will be open to anyone with a ticket. It also operates as a zone where players will mingle with the spectators.
"The mentality of the curler that they are open and they are out there no matter what your success was, you want … everyone to rally around and grow the sport," said Petrushchak. "One of the unique things about curling is everyone is invested."
There will also be entertainment with the Grand Slam Social House out of the Max MacLean Arena, with live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Thursday will feature Jordan Leden at 10 p.m., Friday will have Myra Marshall and Tom Lichak at 6 p.m. and Ryan Lindsay at 10 p.m., while 103 Cubic Inches takes over on Saturday with sets at 8 and 10 p.m.
A lot of wok has gone into putting the event on from a local stand point. While Sportsnet does take care a lot of the logistical details with the setup of the event, the host committee is still leaning on the efforts of 160 volunteers to make the Canadian Open happen.
"Once again the community came out in full force, it was easy to get these positions filled up," said Bratrud. "That's one of the great things about Camrose, we've got a really great group of people that are willing to volunteer their time."
Critical to the financial success of the Open are ticket sales and director of marketing and local sponsorships and ticket sales Ken Duggan says they are right on track for where they want to be. There are still a lot of tickets available for the early week draws, but the championship weekend is starting to fill up. They will be relying on the walkup crowd to put them over the top.
The Canadian Open is a major opportunity for the Rose City Curling Club to promote and grow the sport in Camrose. While they will share in the profits of the event, it is an opportunity to put the best of what curling has to offer in front of the community.
"I know all of our kids in the academy and the little rockers program are going to be in attendance … they're really excited about this opportunity to see the best curlers in the world," said Duggan.