The 2023 men’s world curling championships will be at TD Place next April, a make-up effort after Ottawa lost the 2021 competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The decision was expected for weeks, but Curling Canada and the World Curling Federation made it all official at a media conference Friday at the concourse inside TD Place.
“It starts with the people here. The Ottawa Valley is incredibly supportive of the sport, both in terms of participation and in terms of volunteers, and in just terms of just coming at us and knocking on the door and saying, ‘Bring events to Ottawa.’”
TD Place played host to the Brier in 2016, 2001, 1993 and 1979. Additionally, in 2017, hometown star Rachel Homan and her teammates claimed The Roar of the Rings Canadian Curling Trials championship at Canadian Tire Centre.
For all that, a world curling championship has never before been in the capital.
The 2022 event was staged in Las Vegas last April, with Sweden’s Niklas Edin rink defeating Canada’s Brad Gushue in the gold-medal game.
The advantage here is that the blueprints that were in place for the event that was supposed to happen in 2021 — it was ultimately moved to Calgary — can be dusted off and used again.
Everyone from Curling Canada to Tourism Ottawa to Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, which manages the building, is pumped at having a second opportunity to showcase the Ottawa region to the world.
“They were committed to coming here,” OSEG president and CEO Mark Goudie said. “It was just a matter of figuring out when it would happen, making it work. Curling Canada and the World Curling Federation are excited about coming back to Ottawa. We killed it a couple of years ago when we had the Brier here and it was a fun event.”
With the event running for more than a week — April 1 to April 9 — the restaurants and stores on the grounds will benefit from an influx of fans from around the world.
“It’s the perfect venue for long days and you can kind of supplement your curling (viewing) with other things, so we’re all looking forward to it,” Goudie said.
There is a potential scheduling conflict with the Ottawa 67’s. If, as expected, the 67’s qualify for the Ontario Hockey League playoffs next season, the first round of the post-season would be held in the first couple of weeks of April.
It’s possible the 67’s could be forced to play some home playoff games elsewhere, with Gatineau’s Slush Puppie Centre, The Canadian International Hockey Academy in Rockland and the Canadian Tire Centre representing alternative options.
Whatever happens, Goudie says the ideal scenario would be having both the curlers and the 67’s in action.
“You hope there’s a huge inconvenience, that we’re in the playoffs, on the road to a Memorial Cup berth, and this is a small bump early in the first round,” he said.
Being too busy is a welcome change from the COVID-19 headaches that kept sports fans and concert goers away from activities for most of 2020 and 2021.
“This event has been in the works for years,” said Catherine Callary, Ottawa Tourism’s vice-president of destination development. “We put a lot of effort and strategy into attracting these major high-calibre sporting events to our city. Of course, tourism has been really slow for the past couple of years, so we’re really happy to see it come back.”
Beyond the civic pride of having Ottawa showcased on a global stage, Callary says the economic impact to the city from the event — including hotel bookings, restaurant meals from visitors and increased spending from locals — is in the range of $9 million.
“It does really bring visitor dollars into the community and these are dollars that are supporting our local businesses, people who have really had to tighten their belts over the past two years and haven’t seen people coming through their doors.”
Tickets for the world championship are expected to go on sale in September. A portion of the proceeds will be returned to youth curling programs in Ottawa, Ontario and throughout Canada.
The call is also going out for volunteers to help stage the event.
In addition to bringing on the world next year, Curling Canada is also working with the RA Centre to play host to the USports national championships in September. The winners will advance to the 2023 world university games in Lake Placid in January.