PLAYING HOST - Red Deer's Centrium during the Labatt's Brier

City gearing up for the Scotties Tournament of Hearts

From Feb. 18th to 26th, Red Deer will be the proud host of the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian Women’s Curling Championships.

It is the second time that Red Deer has been the host City. The Championships were also successfully held here in 2004.

The ability of Red Deer to host national and international sporting events is a direct result of having the Centrium coliseum and other related facilities at the Westerner grounds. The Centrium was originally constructed in 1991, at the time that the Westerner was celebrating its centennial.

The benefit of having a major new facility in the community was quickly demonstrated. In 1994 alone, Red Deer hosted three national and international sports event.

The first was the Labatt’s Brier, the national men’s curling championships that took place from March 6 to March 13, 1994. Three factors were cited in Red Deer’s success in attracting such a prestigious event. The first, of course, was the quality of the Centrium facility. The second was Red Deer’s location halfway between the two large metropolitan areas of Calgary and Edmonton. The third was the strong curling tradition in Central Alberta.

The job assumed by the Red Deer Brier Society, the local organizers of the championships, was daunting. Between $1.2 million and $1.7 million would have to be raised. Moreover, nearly 1,000 volunteers would have

to be recruited.

Red Deer proved equal to the challenge. All the necessary funds were raised. The full complement of volunteers was recruited. More than 130,000 tickets were sold, second only to the record set at 1989 Saskatoon Brier when 151,000 tickets were sold.

That is not to say that there were not some controversies. During the first couple of days of the competition, there were some complaints about the ice caused by temperature fluctuations in the Centrium. The exuberance of the fans led to some sports reporters talking about the ‘Red Neck Brier’.

These were minor quibbles. The whole event was still a smashing success. Red Deer got national attention and praise. Some 1.5 million people watched the final championship game on television. Moreover, while the organizers had hoped for a profit between $200,000 and $300,000, when all the bills were paid, more than $650,000 had been made.

On Nov. 3rd to 6th, 1994, the second big event was held in the Centrium. It was the Sun Life Skate Canada International Skating Competitions. It was Red Deer’s first-ever international figure skating event, with many stars from across the globe participating. One local favourite was Canadian champion Elvis Stoyko, who wowed the crowds with his performances.

Again, Red Deer got national and international media attention. Hundreds of local volunteers made the event a success. While the competitions were not fully sold out on the first two days of the event, they were sold out or nearly sold out for the last two days.

At the end of December and into January 1995, the main games of the World Junior Hockey Championships were held at the Centrium. Other matches were played in several Central Alberta towns as well as Calgary and Edmonton. In all, 28 games were played, with a total attendance of 128,467. A real cap to the success of the event came when Canada won its third straight world junior hockey championship at a sell-out game at the Centrium.

Once again, Red Deer impressed the international organizers with the support of the community, particularly the huge participation of volunteers. As a result of this tremendous spirit of volunteerism, Red Deer was officially designated in 1995 as ‘The Community of Volunteers’. The slogan was added to the City’s entrance signs, next to the declaration that the community was ‘A Nuclear Weapons Free Zone’.

More information on the upcoming Scotties Tournament of Hearts can be found on their web site at www.curling.ca/championships/scotties.