Kelowna curling community embraces Grand Slam event
It's been a long wait for Kelowna's curling community.
Thirteen years after first opening its doors, Prospera Place is playing host to its first major curling event this week—the Canadian Open.
With 18 of the top men's teams in the country on display for the second stop of the Grand Slam circuit, Kelowna Curling Club general manager Jock Tyre hopes it will mark the beginning of a new era for local curling fans.
"We've been trying for a long time to break through, to break into Prospera with a curling event of any magnitude," said Tyre, who has managed the KCC since 1992. "We're really hoping this opens the door for future events, and that R.G. Properties (Prospera Place owners) will see the value of an event like this. Kelowna is such a great destination and such a great place to host big sporting events, we'd like curling to be part of that."
Kelowna has served as host to several major curling events in the past, but never in an arena setting with seating for 6,000 spectators.
The city hosted the Pioneer world women's championship in 1986, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 1988, the 1999 Canadian juniors and the world juniors in 2001, all held at the Kelowna Curling Club or Memorial Arena.
A local group tried to land the Scotties national women's championship in 2010 but couldn't secure the necessary dates at Prospera Place.
Tyre said if this week's event is a success, then it's quite likely Kelowna's curling community will pursue the Scotties again in the future.
And with Kamloops landing the Brier for 2014, the most coveted of all curling events, hosting a Canadian men's curling championship at Prospera in the future may not be out of the question, either.
"The (Canadian Curling Association) usually goes to the bigger centres, but by picking Kamloops for 2014 that opens the door for smaller cities," said Tyre. "Our building is pretty much the same size, so you never know. It's something we would definitely be interested in bringing here."
Two-time world men's champion Rick Folk of Kelowna counts himself among the many who are thrilled to see a major curling event inside Prospera Place for the first time.
In Folk's heyday—the 1980s to mid-1990s—only the Brier was played in arenas and commanded national television exposure.
"These kinds of events were just sort of coming along when I was already kind of past my prime, you could say, so I think it's wonderful to see how far they've come in the last 10 years or so," said Folk, the 1980 and 1994 Canadian and world champ. "Now people can watch a lot more curling on TV and the interest is growing because of that. Personally, I still love watching curling and I like to watch it live as much as I can.
"In a way I'm a little jealous I didn't get a chance to play in a few of these, but I really think it's great for the game," added Folk, "I definitely think it would be good to see more events of this kind come here in the future."
Action continues Friday at Prospera with draws at 9 a.m., and 12:30, 4 and 8 p.m.
The playoffs begin Saturday, with the quarterfinals at 12:30 and semis at 4:30 p.m.
The final of the $100,000 Canadian Open will be played at 10 a.m. Sunday at Prospera Place with $20,000 going to the winner.
The championship game will be broadcast live on Sportsnet.
For more information on the Canadian Open, visit world curl.com