For a week of days in November of this year, Cranbrook will be the centre of the curling world.
Cranbrook has been awarded an event in the Grand Slam of Curling — the Tour Challenge, the second event on the tour — and will see a massive influx of top international curlers, 15 men’s teams and 15 women’s teams in the top tier, and another 30 teams in a second tier.
The event will be broadcast on Sportsnet, a national sportscasting TV network.
Kristi Petrushchak, Manager of the Tour Challenge for Sportsnet, spoke to the Townsman from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, where she is scouting locations for the 2017/18 Grand Slam.
Petrushchak said Cranbrook’s existing volunteer network, and the experience Cranbrook had hosting the 2011 Canada Cup of Curling, made Cranbrook a compelling host city for the 2016 event.
“The veteran volunteer committee lead by Todd Pellerin are enthusiastic and excited to bring a world class event back to Cranbrook,” Petrushchak said.”It’s always a plus when you have a community of volunteers that have hosted a large curling event, to take their previous experience and key learnings and help make this event a greater success for the community.”
Petrushchak added that it was local organizer Todd Pellerin who reached out to Sportsnet with the idea of holding the Tour Challenge in Cranbrook.
“We’ve been talking for almost a year, trying to figure out what the right timing is,” she said. “Originally we were thinking January, and then we had to move one of our events — the Tour Challenge — I said ‘Well, Todd, do you have two rinks?’ He said ‘yes, we do.’”
Two rinks — in this case Western Financial Place and the Memorial Arena — are be required to accommodate the two tiers of teams. Petrushchak said her colleague
Petrushchak’s colleague Jennifer Cram was recently in Cranbrook.
“She met with the City of Cranbrook and with Todd Pellerin, and did a tour long with the icemaker. And everything’s perfect.
“We’ve got 60 teams coming — two different tiers, two different arenas, so it will be something bigger and more unique. But it will be amazing — the broadcast and the story that goes behind hosting 60 teams and five regionals for men and women. Having the hometown pride there is great.”
The two tiered event is something relatively new for the Grand Slam. It was first held in Paradise, Newfoundland, in September, 2015, and Petrushchak said it was a great success.
“Sportsnet is dedicated to growing the sport of curling,” she said. “Adding a second tier of teams allows teams that are on the cusp of making it into the Slams an opportunity to play on world class ice. Ultimately the winners of the Tier 2 get a bye into the Canadian Open event in January, 2017, with their travel and accommodations paid as well as their entry fee.”
Notable by his presence before and during the Tour Challenge will be the official icemaker.
“Mark Shurek is our Grand Slam of Curling icemaker,” Petrushchak said. “He’s been the icemaker of the Slams since its inception in 2001. He will bring with him three assists and work with the local icemaker to secure a crew for both arenas.
The Sportsnet team travels with all of the equipment for the event, Petrushchak added, from rocks to carpets, draping, signage, scoreboards, time clocks, etc.
Pellerin said in an earlier interview with the Townsman that depending on the success of the Tour Challenge, 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.”
As well as support from the City of Cranbrook, local minor sports groups and the Kootenay Ice have agreed to modify their schedules around the Tour Challenge. In an earlier interview with the Townsman, Pellerin said 50 per cent of profits from the event will go towards these groups, to help offset the costs of the adjustments they’re making.”
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.