The Grand Slam of Curling is officially coming to Cranbrook.
The announcement was made by Sportsnet on Monday morning, just days after the contract was signed between the City of Cranbrook on Friday.
The event — The Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge — will feature 60 world men and womens teams playing in two tiers that will compete at Western Financial Place and the Memorial Arena from Nov. 8-13, 2016.
Todd Pellerin, one of the organizers of the committee that has been working to bring the event to Cranbrook, told the Daily Townsman that everyone is excited to bring the event to Cranbrook.
“It is the biggest thing in curling,” Pellerin said.
The event will be broken down in to 15 men and 15 women’s teams in Tier One—the top level of competition. The same format will be duplicated for the Tier 2, which will feature professional curlers that aren’t quite at the elite level.
Pellerin singled out city staff such as Paul Heywood, events and marking manager, along with Chris New, the director of leisure services, along with Mayor Lee Pratt and Councillor Tom Shypitka for their work in landing the event.
Pellerin said Pratt was a helpful presence when Sportsnet staff toured the facilities in Cranbrook.
“Mayor Lee Pratt was probably the tipping point that got us this big event, because with him coming with me on the tour when Sportsnet came to visit in January, it really showed a commitment from the City that Cranbrook is willing and able to offer a world class event in our community, so his involvement, and Tom Shypitka as well, really solidified it,” Pellerin said.
For his part, Pratt noted that the event will be a good showcase for the city and be good for business.
“I was definitely on side with it,” Pratt said. “I think it can be a huge economic driver for the city without question. Plus the fact that it’s world curling, it gives us the opportunity to showcase our community to the world, so I think it’s great that they’ve decided to go ahead with it and we’re certainly behind it 100 per cent.”
There has been a campaign to get the event to Cranbrook for the last nine months ever since it was brought to city council in May 2015. Since then, Pellerin and the committee have been working with city staff and other organizations that would be affected, such as minor sports and the Kootenay Ice.
Given that the Tour Challenge will disrupt minor sports groups that use Western Financial Place and the Memorial Arena, Pellerin said the organizing committee has decided to donate 50 per cent of profits back into those minor sport organizations.
Pellerin also credits Heywood for working with the WHL and the Kootenay Ice to find solutions to make it work with them.
“The biggest thing for us was to get permission from the WHL and the Kootenay Ice, so Paul Heywood, after meeting with us, sent a letter to the WHL because the cutoff for next season’s Ice games had to be submitted before the end of January,” said Pellerin.
“So prior to that letter being sent, Sportsnet had come up on around the 15th [of January] and once we knew that we had the ability to do it, they sent a letter to the WHL, so now they’re going to schedule the Ice around this event.
“Jeff [Chynoweth] said it was fine and that the team would adjust to it so we got an agreement from the Kootenay Ice and we thank them for it and they’re willing to accommodate us, so that’s great.”
Sponsorship had been a concern that was debated in a city council meeting earlier in December, but Pellerin clarified that Cranbrook did not have to meet a sponsorship threshold to land the event.
“What I’m saying is there’s no caveat that if there is a shortfall, that the city will have to cover it,” Pellerin said. “The sponsorship was never meant to be a guarantee from anybody or any host city, it was just that they want the organizers to arrange this amount of sponsorship. If there is a shortfall, there is no penalty to anybody.
“They’re just allowing local sponsors to take part in it if they want to get their logo on TV or in the programs or on the boards, it gives them the opportunity.”
The last major curling event that Cranbrook hosted was the Canada Cup of Curling in 2011, which was organized by the Canadian Curling Association, which has nothing to do with the Grand Slam of Curling, as it is organized directly by Sportsnet.
Pellerin said that he’s been hearing feedback that some of the curling teams are excited to come to Cranbrook.
“Sportsnet has already confirmed that these teams are wanting to come here,” Pellerin said. “They’re happy to come back to Cranbrook, some of them really like it here and they’ve said, ‘We really like it there, let’s go there.’
“So we got a raving fan endorsement from the curlers themselves about Cranbrook and the area.”
Depending on the success of the Tour Challenge, Pellerin adds that there is potential for the city to host more Grand Slam events in the future.
“If we have a good local buy-in and the sponsorship is good and everyone has a good review after the event, Sportsnet has said that we would become one of the city locations that would be on a rotating basis for future events,” he said.
“So what that means is, we have a successful event here, maybe in two or three years, we get another event, and because we’re pre-qualified with our facilities, we could host any of their events, on very short notice.”
Pellerin and the Cranbrook Curling Club are hosting a public information meeting on Tuesday, March 8 at 7 p.m. at the curling club to answer any questions, recruit more volunteers and establish a board of directors and sub-committees.