Thunder Bay Seeks Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Curling Sports News

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THUNDER BAY – SPORTS – Efforts are underway to bring the Scotties Tournament of Hearts to Thunder Bay.

The Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling Tour Challenge held in Thunder Bay at the Thunder Tournament Centre back in November was a success on and off the ice, and now the local Thunder Bay curling community is looking to make a bid for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian Women’s Curling Championships in 2021.

At a media conference Thursday at the Fort William Curling Club, the local host committee for the Grand Slam event announced a profit of $60,000 from the Sportsnet managed tournament that drew sold-out crowds at the Thunder Bay Tournament Centre. The three local curling clubs, the Fort William Curling Club, Port Arthur Curling Club and the Kakabeka Falls Curling Club will receive $20,000 each which will come at an opportune time to help offset revenues from shrinking memberships.

The key revenue streams for the Grand Slam event were the 50/50 draws which netted a profit of just under $20,000 for junior curling, while bar revenues and local sponsorship brought in another $20,000 each.

The top 60 teams in the world compete in the Tier 1 and Tier II made for TV production that brought 27 hours of the live broadcast of games to a national audience on Sportsnet. Sportsnet estimates the overall expenses to put on the event including television production and the prize purse was $1.2 million.

The total ticket sales for the event were $167,085 which went to Sportsnet in lieu of the $160,000 hosting fee which was waived for the host committee.

The direct spend in the community by Sportsnet for hotels rooms for curlers, car rentals for teams, arena rental and entertainment was over $200,000.

The Best Western Plus Nor’wester Hotel and the Valhalla Inn were the host hotels for the 250 curlers and 40 Sportsnet broadcast crew who came to the city for the six-day event generating 1200 room nights over the eight days and a spend of $140,000. It is estimated the teams and Sportsnet crew spent another $110,000 food, shopping and incidentals during the time they were in the city.

2021 Scotties – February 20 – 28

AAA All Ontario Bantam Championships
AAA All Ontario Bantam Championships

In a wrap-up meeting on Monday, the local organizing committee for the Slam event made up of representatives from all three local clubs voted by consensus that the next big event for Thunder Bay would be to look at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2021.

Curling Canada requires a $400,000 hosting fee which is a price tag beyond the budgets of local curling clubs. However, since the City of Thunder Bay started collecting an accommodation tax in September 2019, the club is hoping the portion of the funding earmarked for tourism promotion and product development could be used to help bring the event to Thunder Bay.

Thunder Bay will be bidding against other municipalities across the country that have an accommodation or hotel tax in place. In fact, the 2019 event in Sydney, Nova Scotia and upcoming 2020 championship Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan had success in their Scotties’ bids using accommodation tax money.

Curling Canada estimates the Scotties brings an economic impact of 6 – 10 million dollars to the host community along with the extensive national media exposure of the daily broadcasts by TSN.

2021 will mark the 25th anniversary since Thunder Bay last hosted the Scotties – back in 1996. The Fort William Gardens was sold out most nights of the championship back them with the Fort William Curling Club used as the Heart Stop Lounge, also a very busy place.

There is a strong potential that Krista McCarville could represent Northern Ontario in 2021 which would give a local drawing card for ticket sales.

There are challenges to hosting the event. The Fort William Gardens is an aged facility and will require temporary fixes to accommodate requirements of Curling Canada and the national broadcaster TSN. The costs may include a temporary Jumbotrone and additional rooms for production to host.

The dates for the Scotties in 2021 are February 20 -28. Curling Canada has timelines for municipalities interested in bidding. A letter of intent is required by April 30 of this year with a full bid document to be submitted by June 30. Potential host cities will also be asked to run pre-sales to determine interest in their communities.