Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Scotties bid committee says city has 'fantastic history' of volunteering, packing stands

Proponents of bringing the Scotties Tournament of Hearts to Thunder Bay, Ont., say the city has a lot going for it to attract the national women's curling championships to the Lakehead, even though the proposed venue itself provides some "challenges."

Proponents say planning for hosting event at Fort William Gardens has 'challenges'

Diane Imrie is a co-chair of the bid committee struck to bring the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts to Thunder Bay. She's also the executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

Proponents of bringing the Scotties Tournament of Hearts to Thunder Bay, Ont., say the city has a lot going for it to attract the national women's curling championships to the Lakehead, even though the proposed venue itself provides some "challenges."

The bid committee formally announced on Monday it is submitting a package to Curling Canada by the end of June, expressing interest by three local curling clubs — the Port Arthur Curling Club, the Fort William Curling Club and the Kakabeka Falls Curling Club — in bringing the 2021 Scotties to Thunder Bay.

If successful, the Fort William Gardens would play host to the best women's curlers in the country.

The city has a history of filling the stands for big curling events, said Diane Imrie, one of the co-chairs of the bid committee and the executive director of the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame.

That history includes the Gardens back in 1996 when the Scotties last was in Thunder Bay.

"It was a rocking place — pardon the curling pun," Imrie said. "It was really alive with activity."

Organizers say, if the local bid committee is successful in convincing Curling Canada that Thunder Bay should host the Scotties again, filling the stands shouldn't be a problem. But, the Gardens itself will require some work.

"The arena has its challenges," co-chair Rick Lang said. "Some of the setups and layouts, we've already been challenged figuring out how we would accommodate all of the support groups that come with such an event."

Lang told Thunder Bay city council in May that trailers would need to be rented to provide extra room and, typically, venues have a jumbotron, although portabsle screens have also been used. He also told council that the city is well-equipped in terms of hotel rooms and air transportation.

The Gardens is the right size for the Scotties, he said on Monday — it seats about 3,300 people — adding that it has another advantage: being attached to the Fort William Curling Club, which would be turned into a lounge and gathering space.

Rick Lang is a co-chair of the 2021 Thunder Bay Scotties Tournament of Hearts bid committee. He is also a three-time Brier winner. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

It's the community's history with, not only filling the stands for curling events, but also people turning out to volunteer that organizers also hope to draw national officials' attention to. The city hosted one of the stops for the 2018-2019 Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling

"We have a fantastic history of volunteerism in this community, as we showed with the Pinty's, and we actually had to cut off registration, so many people wanted to volunteer," Imrie said.

"I anticipate that's going to happen again."

With files from Jeff Walters

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