WINNIPEG — The crown jewel of Manitoba’s curling season is returning to the Wheat City in 2015.
CurlManitoba announced Friday that the provincial men’s curling championship, currently known as the Safeway Championship, will be held at Westman Place next year. It’s the first time since 2008 the event will take place in Brandon and co-chair Shawn Taylor is happy to bring it back.
"I think it’s huge," said Taylor, who will oversee the event with Jeff Cristall. "It’s been a while since we’ve had it. Brandon and the Westman area is a big curling community and it’s important to have provincials back. It creates more interest and I think we can fill the stands."
Since 2008, the men’s championship has been held in Selkirk, Steinbach, Beausejour, Dauphin, Neepawa and Winnipeg. Brandon was skipped in that time in large part because the Brandon Curling Club barely broke even the last time it held the event, due to the contract it signed with the Keystone Centre.
During his three-year tenure as the Brandon Curling Club’s president, Taylor worked with the Keystone Centre to find a partnership agreement in which both parties could profit from hosting a major curling event, and he believes they have accomplished that.
"I think the Keystone Centre is willing to work events like this," said Taylor, who handed the reins as Brandon club president to James Barnett this year. "The key to doing events like this is for everyone to be partners in this thing and that’s one of the things. The Keystone Centre is coming around and we’re looking at this as a partnership to run this event hopefully as a stepping stone to host more events and potentially national events."
Brandon last hosted a national Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2002 and was the site of the Brier in 1982. It also put on the Olympic trials in 1997. The Brandon club, however, is getting more involved on the provincial scene as next year will be the third straight curling season in which it hosts a Manitoba championship. It held the junior men’s and women’s events in 2013 and it will host the senior men’s and women’s provincial championships from Feb. 20-24.
Hosting major curling events on almost a yearly basis is something Taylor wanted to start during his tenure as the club’s president and he thinks it will be beneficial.
"We want events we can run in our club because they are easier and they don’t take as much and our volunteer base is fantastic, as long as we don’t overload them year after year," he said. "If we can have an event when we need to use the arena every couple of years, I think that’s a good strategy going forward."
CurlManitoba is also excited to bring the men’s curling championship back to Brandon.
"I’m very excited about it," said CurlManitoba president Rob Van Kommer, who is from Carberry. "I wish I was president for one more year.
"It’s a goal that the committee has worked very hard on achieving, the Keystone Centre has been great to work with for the staff and we’re really excited to go out there. With any luck, it’s going to be continued every so many years that we get to go back there again."