Jim Cotter’s Vernon-based curling rink has travelled far and wide to attend World Curling Tour events, including the four Grand Slam of Curling bonspiels with their large $100,000 purses that are held each year.
But for the first time ever Cotter and his rink, which includes Kelowna curlers Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky, will have the chance to play at Prospera Place in Kelowna as the World Curling Tour’s Grand Slam of Curling will come to Kelowna Dec. 12 to 16.
It will be the first time Prospera Place has played host to a curling bonspiel in its history.
“This is fabulous,” said Cotter after his rink claimed the World Curling Tour’s Prestige Hotels Classic in Vernon (see story) last weekend. “When we heard it was a possibility it was going to be in Kelowna we were all extremely excited. We have lots of family and friends around the area. It’s nice to play close by. Generally we are flying all over the country. To be able to play at home is fantastic and hopefully we qualify for it.”
The Kelowna event will be the second leg of the Grand Slam of Curling, which will feature the top 18 curling rinks in the world, according to the rankings on the World Curling Tour. After losing Kevin Folk from its rink, Cotter is currently ranked 18th in the world but is expected to pick up more points before the Kelowna event to qualify.
Top rinks like Kevin Martin of Alberta, Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba, Ontario’s Glen Howard and Brad Gushue of Newfoundlan/Labrador all reside within the top 16 rankings and should be among a star-studded field that will come to Kelowna.
“To have an event like this in Kelowna is big,” said Sawatsky. “As far as the calibre of teams and the play, this area might never see an event of this magnitude again. These are the best teams in the world. The shot making you will see form these guys is amazing.”
The ability of Prospera Place to host a large curling event came down to timing. The Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets will play at home on Dec. 8 before hitting the road and allowing the World Curling Tour to move in and take over Prospera Place from Dec. 9 until the event begins on Dec. 12.
“What made it work is the timing,” said Prospera Place general manager Wayne Pansegrau. “The Rockets are on their Eastern swing and there is no conflict with the hockey team. Before there has always been a scheduling problem. It’s been hard to get high profile curling events in the past.”
The Grand Slam of Curling is a week-long event, while the Canadian men’s and women’s championships go a full two weeks, which has kept Prospera from being able to host a large curling bonspiel.
Pansegrau says this Grand Slam event should be exciting for the building and for the city.
“We have a few people in our building that have worked curling events in Victoria,” he said. “But I would say 95 per cent of our staff haven’t worked it. Its exciting for Kelowna., If we show well and Kelowna supports this event we potentially could get something like the Scott Tournament of Hearts or bonspiels that are a bigger deal.”
Staff at Prospera Place will hand over the controls to the World Curling Tour officials, who will be in charge of ice-making and set-up. Sawatsky says top ice makers will ensure that the ice is great and allow the curlers to do what they do best.
“The icemaker for the tour has been able to go into any arena and transform it from hockey to curling ice that is just unbelievable,” he said. “It’s fast and consistent and it curls a ton so it’s really entertaining for the people. You can make any shot. It’s good for the fans to be able to watch what the guys can do and showcase their talents.”
The Grand Slam of Curling Canadian Open goes Dec. 12 to 16 at Prospera Place. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. today through Select Your Tickets.