Brier coming to Kamloops in 2014
The Loser Cruiser, filled with long faces, burned a trail two years ago from Vancouver to Kamloops and, at the same time, headed down a path toward the 2014 Tim Hortons Brier.
A Tournament Capital bid on the 2015 Canada Winter Games had been lost — Prince George was named host city at a press conference held alongside the Olympic Torch in September 2010 — and hours upon hours of hard work in Kamloops were for naught.
"We were driving through Langley, feeling sorry for ourselves, and then we said, 'Hey, we're a group of businessmen here and we can figure out events that we can bring to our community'," said Norm Daley, recalling the mood change among the failed bid-committee members in the vehicle that day.
"I think it was about that time I made the phone call to Warren and said, 'We want to bring the Brier back to Kamloops' . . . and here we are."
Warren Hansen, director of event operations and media with the Canadian Curling Association (CCA), remembers the call well.
He mentioned it during a press conference on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at Interior Savings Centre to announce the big news — Kamloops will host the 2014 Brier, the national men's curling championship, from March 1 to March 9.
Daley, chairman of Kamloops' Brier bid committee, was on hand to say a few words in ISC's packed Parkside Lounge, filled with dignitaries, sponsor representatives, media members and curling fans.
"You go out there and you try to achieve a goal and you sometimes think it's insurmountable but, working together as a team, as we do here in Kamloops, we're always able to accomplish our goals," Daley said.
The last time the prestigious curling tournament was in B.C. was 1996, when 127,746 people took in the action at ISC, then known as Riverside Coliseum.
Only twice since then has the Brier been played in a venue that holds fewer than 10,000 spectators — Regina in 2006 and London in 2011.
Fewer seats mean less ticket-sale revenue in the CCA's coffers and that was likely the biggest obstacle facing Kamloops' bid committee.
"It comes down to money, as things always do," Hansen said.
"With the support that we've got from the province, the lotteries and the City of Kamloops, we can come into this area and make this event work."
The provincial government and B.C. Lottery Corporation are kicking in $100,000 apiece, with the city and Tourism Kamloops each adding $50,000 in event funding.
"The big thing was to say, with the size of our facility, that we can still do it," said Daley, noting the 1996 Brier was the 16th-most attended in the tournament's 83-year history.
"We also pointed to the events that we've held here before."
Kamloops hosted the Canada Cup from 2003 to 2008 and the 1998 world championship, along with the 1996 Brier.
In 1998, more than 93,000 tickets were sold for the worlds.
"Just because we're small doesn't mean we can't be successful," Daley said.
Hansen told KTW the CCA has always been open to hosting the Brier in cities of Kamloops' size.
"When we go into big venues, like in Alberta, our costs to operate those events are enormous because the facility costs are very, very large," he said.
"We have never said we would not bring the Brier into a smaller venue. We did say the economic circumstance would have to be right to make it happen."
Hansen added advertising costs are significantly lower in smaller towns and it's easier to "get the word out."
Ticket prices for the 2014 Brier have not yet been set. Weekly passes will likely be on sale in February, Hansen said.
Kamloops Mayor Peter Milobar was aboard the Loser Cruiser (a term coined by Daley) two years ago.
"You have two options when you lose a game — you either mope around or you pick yourself up and get ready for the next competition," Milobar said.
"That's exactly what we were doing within an hour of getting told no."
The Brier is expected to bring between $5 million and $6 million in economic impact to the city, according to the mayor.
"It's in a time of the year where you're not displacing people, in trading one tourist for another," Milobar said. "It's the beginning of March, typically a time where there's some extra rooms available in hotels."
Milobar added most downtown businesses should experience a boon and the Kamloops Curling Club — which will double as the Brier Patch, the tourney's main entertainment venue — will be buzzing with activity.
The Brier has been played in 31 cities across Canada, from Victoria to St. John's.
Manitoba has the most wins, with 27, and Alberta is second, with 25.
B.C. has four titles — Frenchy D'Amour of Trail in 1948, Lyall Dagg of Vancouver in 1964, Rick Folk of Kelowna in 1994 and Greg McAulay of New Westminster in 2000.
In 1996 in Kamloops, Jeff Stoughton of Manitoba stole one in the 11th end to earn an 8-7 win over Kevin Martin of Manitoba in the final.
A Stoughton-Martin rematch cannot be ruled out in 2014.
The curling-savvy crowd at the press conference was happy to learn the winner of the 2014 Brier will become Team Canada and receive automatic entry into the 2015 Brier.
There will also be a relegation round played by a yet-to-be-determined number of teams prior to the 2015 Brier to decide which teams qualify for the 12-team draw.
Entry to that relegation round will be based on results at the 2014 Brier.
The 2013 Brier will be held at Rexall Place in Edmonton from March 2 to March 10.
TSN and RDS hold the exclusive television rights for the Brier, from round-robin play to the gold-medal matchup.
"The fact it hasn't been in B.C. since it was played in Kamloops in '96, without them going to a Vancouver, or a location like that with those size of stadiums available, it speaks volumes to the volunteer commitment and the strength of the curling community in Kamloops," Milobar said.