By Chris Lewis | Vol. 32 No. 41 (Dec. 23, 2019)
Conception Bay South is unique in that it has managed to host an international curling tournament two years in a row.
For the second December running, the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling, Boost National, was broadcast across the country from the CBS Arena.
Dr. Adrian Power, a Kelligrews dentist an avid curling fan who chaired the organizing committee, said that’s an opportunity not many other towns get.
The Boost national is part of the World Curling Tour. Within the North American portion of the tour, there are four major ‘Grand Slam’ events, with smaller ones sprinkled into the schedule. The four events feature over $300,000 in prize money.
Power said he and a few other representatives from the town travelled to Toronto last year to meet with Sportsnet to discuss the possibility of bringing the tournament to CBS. He said they were told that Sportsnet usually gives small communities a one-shot deal, and don’t come back after that. Paradise, for example, hosted a portion of the tour in 2015.
“They said they never repeat, but we said to them that we’d like for them to come back. In fact, we’d like to have a cycle – they laughed at us,” Power said. “So, we hosted it last year, and we did a phenomenal job. And now, we’ve been able to host it for a second year, so I think that speaks to how well it played out.”
Power added that proof of how well the town did is evident on the World Curling Tour’s official website, where the CBS Arena is featured in the first photos seen on the homepage.
The event also saw plenty of earnings go back into the community, Power said.
“With most of these, you’re lucky if you break even, so our aim was that it would not cost the town anything,” Power said. “They (Sportsnet) made money out of it, and we made money out of it. We actually were able to donate back to the community from our 50/50 (fund), with about $30,000. That went between the St. John’s Ambulance, the Food Bank, and some local clubs like the figure skaters and minor hockey.”
Power said the fact that Sportsnet made a return to Conception Bay South says a lot about the community, and also serves as a major boost for the local tourism industry.
Power estimated roughly $2-million went into the local economy through hotel and AirBnB stays, dinners at restaurants, and even pumping gas into rental vehicles.
“Our idea is to expose the world to our town,” Power said. “It’s a way of sending the message that CBS is out there, and we’re open for business and tourists. It shows everyone our culture as well, and exposes them to the friendliness of our people… A lot of people look at Newfoundland as something of an exotic place to visit, we have our own unique culture and way of life, and so this is a time when we can shine.”
Power said he was surprised by the number of people visiting from outside the province, noting that a patient of his had a seat next to two different families from Ontario and Manitoba, and both had nothing but good things to say about their stay in the province.
Although ticket sales were slightly more successful the first year than the second, both times the event was a hit, according to Power. He explained the difference in sales year over year may have had something to do with technology. In the first year, the website sold out in a couple of days. This year, it actually crashed, and many people assumed they had missed their opportunity to buy tickets.
Though he is staying hopeful, Power said there is no way to know at this point whether CBS will get to host the tourney a third time. It could be months before the discussion even gets underway.
“There’s really no indicator,” said Power. “For us to have repeated is exceptional on its own. Whether or not we’ll get it for a third is another question altogether.”
Sportsnet particularly likes the CBS Arena because of how easily crews can set up and manoeuvre their camera equipment, he added. Thanks to the design of the stadium, the technical staff did not even need to make use of the scaffolding equipment they usually need in other arenas. “They were able to leave one truck behind because of that. So, it’s an ideal stadium. Fingers crossed,” Power said.
The success of the tournament is fueling Power’s dream of someday seeing a curling club started in CBS.
“We’re prime for a curling club, and if we could open one tomorrow, I’m sure we’d have to be turning away members,” he said. “On the Avalon, there’s really only two curling clubs, both in St. John’s, so there’s room for more.
It all comes down to finding the money to build one, he said.
“Hopefully, one of these days, we’ll see it pan out here,” said Power.