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LEC gets ready to rock

Crews prepare the ice surface inside Langley Events Centre for the Continental Cup, an international curling competition which begins today (Thursday) and runs until Sunday. - Gary AHUJA/Langley Times
Crews prepare the ice surface inside Langley Events Centre for the Continental Cup, an international curling competition which begins today (Thursday) and runs until Sunday.
— image credit: Gary AHUJA/Langley Times

The first time they hosted the Continental Cup of Curling was such a success, the Medicine Hat Curling Club decided to bid on it once again.

“It was a really great competition,” recalled Desmond Grant, who chaired the host committee both times it came to the southern Alberta city.

“And it meant a great deal for local businesses because we brought in around 2,500 people the first time, into the city for a week, and the second time, about 2,000 people for the week.”

“The hotels, the restaurants, were all very, very busy,” he added.

The Continental Cup pits six teams, both men’s and women’s, from North America versus six from the rest of the world in a unique curling format.

The eighth edition of the competition begins today (Thursday) at the Langley Events Centre and runs until Sunday.

Team North America holds a four-to-three advantage in the Ryder-Cup style format.

The unique competition sees the curlers battle in various disciplines during the four days — regular team games, mixed doubles, singles, mixed skins and skins games. Each segment awards points for wins or ties with the first side to reach 200 points declared the winner.

Medicine Hat hosted the competition in 2004 and 2007.

Grant said the competition in 2004 was a complete sellout, with a combined attendance of more than 44,000 (4,006 fans could take in each draw, with 11 draws over four days).

The second time in Medicine Hat, total attendance was down to about 29,000, but part of the reason for the decline was the timing of the event, which conflicted with other major events happening in Alberta simultaneously, he said.

Regardless, hosting the competition was a boon for local businesses.

Following the 2004 event, a formal economic impact study was done.

“The figure they came up with was $7 million economic impact in 2004,” Grant said, adding that while no formal study was done in 2007, they estimated the impact was about the same.

The two most recent Continental Cups were both in Alberta, in Camrose in 2008 and three years later in St. Albert.

The Camrose event saw attendance numbers total 20,150 while in 2011, they were 16,340, according to figures provided by Trina Joly, of the Canadian Curling Association, who served as event manager both times.

Both venues seated roughly 2,000 fans and average attendance per draw were 1,800 in 2008 and almost 1,500 in 2011.

She also said the estimated economic impact of each competition was roughly $3 million.

Numbers were not available for the first two years of the Continental Cup — 2002 in Regina and 2003 in Thunder Bay — but attendance was down.

The only other time the Cup has been in B.C. prior to this event was in Chilliwack in 2006. That tournament was also poorly attended, although severe weather conditions played a significant factor.

The 2012 Continental Cup event manager Neil Houston estimated that as of yesterday morning (Wednesday) between 9,000 and 10,000 tickets had already been sold.

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