This weekend is the opening of the 2018 Scotties Tournament of Hearts at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
I first tried curling two years ago as part of the B.C. Winter Games. Staff thought it would be a good photo opportunity to have me throw a couple of rocks. I learned quickly that curling is a lot harder than it looks.
It has been referred to as chess on ice as it takes a lot of skill to strategically place each shot. Perhaps not a sexy analogy but it is captivating to watch the professionals manipulate the rock to guard a position or knock out the opponent’s shot. Any time you get to witness pros at a national championship you will get swept away with the euphoria, skill and energy of the athletes.
Curling is also one of those few sports where after the draw you can socialize with the players. The HeartStop lounge housed at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre is open to the public and offers entertainment every evening.
I was asked by media about Penticton’s investment of $200,000 in the tournament and what we get in return. Curling Canada reports past Scotties typically generate between $6 and $12 million dollars to the host community. As part of the event, Curling Canada rents the SOEC for two weeks plus the convention centre for 10 days. There are over 3,000 out-of-town visitors and we should see 50,000 attendees over the 24 matches. Having TSN broadcast the games provides tremendous exposure to showcase Penticton, our amenities, lifestyle and beauty. TSN typically has over 7 million unique viewers throughout the tournament.
Scotties is also happening at perhaps the slowest time of year in Penticton, not just for businesses but also in terms of community events. We are known for being an event city, and hosting what many consider as the world’s premiere ladies curling event helps to solidify Penticton as a great host community. The iconic Peach was dressed up for the Scotties and many businesses have made some creative displays to show support. Local business McPhail Kilts worked tirelessly to make the tam on top of the Peach, which is probably a world record for its size. They also rent space to Burley Bagpipes, a local bagpipe manufacturer and instructor, which ties in nicely with curling’s Scottish roots.
Penticton has a rich curling history too. The Penticton Curling Club started in 1954 and has recently grown to over 400 active members. We’ve hosted the Continental Cup, a World Curling Tour event and now the Scotties.
Even if you are not a curling fan, I invite you to check out this Friday’s wild card game. It’s free and is a great opportunity for your family to get out and witness some high calibre curling. The Scotties will no doubt raise the profile of the sport which hopefully increases participation. We want to be a healthy and active community and curling is a sport for all ages and abilities. So come out and cheer on Team B.C. and all of the great talent from across the country.
Andrew Jakubeit is the Mayor of Penticton and provides the Western News with a column twice a month. Contact him via email Andrew.Jakubeit@penticton.ca. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJakubeit