Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay to bid on 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts

One of Canada's most prestigious curling events could take place in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Committee has until end of June to submit bid

Rick Sutton, Diane Imrie, Rick Lang and John Cameron (left to right) are all part of a committee leading a bid for Thunder Bay, Ont., to host the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

One of Canada's most prestigious curling events could take place in Thunder Bay, Ont.

A committee in the city wants to bid for the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian women's curling championships.

"We recently proved that the community can do this," said Rick Lang, one of the people on the committee looking to place a bid for the Scotties.

Lang pointed to the successes of the Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling event hosted by the city in November, 2018.

"Thunder Bay, not known for buying tickets ahead, we sold out in two weeks in the spring when the event was going to be held in the fall."

Lang said the possibility of local curler Krista McCarville competing, or qualifying for the event is a possibility, which means she could play in front of a hometown crowd.

Lang said Thunder Bay now boasts enough hotel rooms, good air transportation and a solid volunteer base to make the event a success.

"Curling Canada covers all other expenses — venue rentals, hotel rooms, transportation and they cover any revenue shortfall, or any anticipated costs," said Diane Imrie, who is also on the committee.

Rick Lang and Diane Imrie made a pitch to city council to get support for a bid to host the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Thunder Bay. 5:25

The group would have to put up $400,000 for the event, which is only payable if the city is selected to host.

"Our plan is to apply to the CEDC to request funding, up to $400,000 through the municipal accommodation tax program, which could be payable over a period of two years," said Imrie, who noted if some additional funding is found, the amount paid out by the CEDC would be reduced.

As for the economic impact, Imrie said the committee believes the economic impact of the nine-day event would be between $6 million and $12 million. The city would receive revenue for the rental of the Fort William Gardens, along with the adjoining Fort William Curling Club.

All three local curling clubs would stand to benefit, with the Fort William, Port Arthur and Kakabeka Falls Curling Clubs receiving 10 percent of ticket sales, and the proceeds of the 50/50 draws.

Aging Fort William Gardens

The bid though, comes with a catch. Upgrades are required to the aging Fort William Gardens, which also hosted the event in 1996.

"You must have a jumbotron or a screen, but we did play in an arena two years ago in Grande Prairie where they didn't have one either, but they put up screens," said Lang.

But, Curling Canada will need to pay for additional amenities, "so that needs to be accommodated in the rental of the Gardens."

Lang said the event also requires ten individual rooms for volunteers, players and television crews, which are not in place. Trailers would need to be rented, and placed outside of the Gardens to accommodate those needs.

"Things have changed since we hosted this event back in 1996," said Imrie, noting the hosting fee then was $25,000 and was covered by the curling clubs.

"When Sydney [Nova Scotia] hosted this event recently, the fee was $450,000."

The city's bid package is due at the end of June. The host city for the 2021 Scotties will be announced in October.

About the Author

Jeff Walters

Reporter/Editor

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.

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