City council debates Grand Slam curling event

Changes to original agreement in May forcing City to look at a larger event that originally anticipated.

Team Kevin Martin and Team Jennifer Jones were the winners of the 2011 Canada Cup of Curling

Team Kevin Martin and Team Jennifer Jones were the winners of the 2011 Canada Cup of Curling

City council had a spirited discussion on hosting a Grand Slam of Curling event in 2017 at Monday night’s regular meeting.

Back in May, council had signed an agreement with the organizers of the event, which stipulated the event would feature 30 teams—15 men, 15 women—to be hosted at Western Financial Place.

However, now the Grand Slam event is potentially doubling in scope, as another separate tier of 30 additional teams is being proposed by the organizers, which touched off debate about whether the city can handle the scale of such an event.

At the end of the discussion, council voted to give city staff the leeway to pursue the option of negotiating a curling event with the expanded Tier 2 roster of teams if possible. However, council was emphatic about landing some form of the Grand Slam in Cranbrook.

“I think it can be a big economic driver for the city. I’m all about economic drivers moving forward and am definitely supportive of it there,” said Mayor Lee Pratt.

“Also, to see this as a chance to showcase Cranbrook to the rest of Canada and literally, parts of the world and I know curling seems to be on a big upswing now in popularity, so I would definitely support it.”

Councillor Tom Shypitka, who has curled competitively against the best in the world, including representing B.C. three times at the national men’s championship, was very much in support of landing a Grand Slam event.

“I have no problem with this event at all. I’ve seen these events firsthand,” Shypitka said. “There’s money involved, sponsorship involved just like everything else. As Mayor Pratt indicated, this is a huge opportunity for the City of Cranbrook to showcase ourselves and show what we’re all about.

“Just because it’s double the size I don’t think our guarantees have gone up, as far as the City’s concerned. I think the guarantees are still the same as the original deal. Because it’s twice as big, it shouldn’t be scary. It should be more economically friendly.”

Under the existing agreement, the hosting fee is capped at $150,000, which will be split at $60,000 from the City of Cranbrook and $90,000 from the curling club.

Roughly $100,000 from ticket sales will go directly to the city/club and any profit will be shared equally, however, should there be a revenue shortfall, the city/club will cover the difference with a 60/40 per cent split.

There are a number of concerns that city staff identified in a report detailing the issues that would come with an expanded curling event.

Some of those issues include:

• Timeframe: Staff is concerned that, when initially proposed, there was an 18-month window to plan and organize the event. Now, with only a year to go, there still isn’t an agreement moving forward detailing what the event will look like.

• Kootenay Ice: The city has contractual obligations to the WHL team, and if both Western Financial Place and the Memorial Arena are unavailable, the Ice would not have a practice facility for over two weeks. The city would be responsible for all costs to provide an alternate practice facility, such as bus and meal costs, if an agreement can be hammered out using arenas in Marysville or Kimberley.

• Revenue loss: With the addition of having the Memorial Arena occupied for up to two weeks for the Grand Slam, staff is estimating $10,000 in lost rental revenue. The second facility would also increase costs for things such as security, custodial and additional staffing.

• Past tournaments: Staff identified that the last Grand Slam of Curling event, hosted in Paradise, NFLD, only generated $138,000 in gross sales despite the area being close to the provincial capital of St. Johns, with a population of 150,000 to draw attendance from.

• Sponsorship: The contract stipulates that $125,000 must be locally raised for  sponsorship. In terms of marketing, Sportsnet is planning on conducting everything from Ontario, which council took issue with. When the Canada Cup was hosted in 2011, there was a local marketing staff person who worked for a year prior to the event to secure all sponsorships. Given the current economic climate, city staff is unsure whether $125,000 in local sponsorship can be raised.

The sponsorship stipulation did not agree with councillor Danielle Cardozo.

“I do have major reservations about this investment. Yes, it’ll be good for our community, yes, it’s an opportunity to showcase, but I think we just heard it right there,” Cardozo said.

“That’s not a small sponsorship amount. That’s going to be extremely difficult because, yes, we have a year, but very few industries right now are providing any money for kind of sponsorship, not even ones of necessity never mind sport.

“And if we have to come up with $125,000 in sponsorships just to break even—that’s scary.

“That’s taxpayers investment.”

An official from the Grand Slam tour will be in Cranbrook in January to look at Western Financial Place and the Memorial Arena to check out the ice plants and gauge the quality of the ice surfaces.

By the end of January, the City is hoping to have some kind of agreement worked out with the event organizers and Sportsnet that will include either the one tier of 30 teams or two tiers of 60 teams.