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Column: Another great opportunity for Estevan

Finally, the Scotties/Tankard is happening in Estevan. An opinion piece on the great opportunity.

Finally, the Scotties/Tankard is happening in Estevan.

The two high-profile provincial curling championships were announced with much fanfare in January 2020. Estevan would be hosting the Viterra Scotties Tournament of Hearts women’s curling provincials and the SaskTel Tankard men’s provincials at beautiful Affinity Place in the winter of 2021.

We know what happened from there. COVID struck, and this marquee event for 2021 was cancelled. Estevan was given first right of refusal to host both events in 2022, but with this city already slated to host the Centennial Cup national junior A hockey tournament in 2022, the organizing committee decided to pass and hope they could get it for 2023.

Nobody was surprised when it was announced the Scotties-Tankard would indeed hit Estevan in 2023.

The Scotties begin Jan. 25, and the Tankard is next week. It’s going to be a great 12-day stretch for the city.

We’re going to have 12 of the top women’s curling teams in the province, including a team out of Estevan skipped by former provincial champion Cindy Ricci. After the Scotties wraps up, there will be a two-day break, and then the Tankard begins.

I know I sound like a broken record when I say this, but events like this are such a great showcase for our community. We’ve seen it with other sports and with other events. We saw it when Estevan hosted the Tankard in January 2018 and the Home Hardware Canada Cup of Curling in December of that year.

Everyone who came to those events praised the community, its people, the organizing committee and the venue itself. When Canadian curling icon Rachel Homan said Affinity Place is among the best sites she has curled in, you know you have something special.

Events like the Scotties and the Tankard are not just about the venue and entertaining fans with great competition. They benefit the entire community.

 When we hosted the Tankard in 2018, the economic spinoff was substantial. Granted, that was a 16-team tournament. But we’ll have two tournaments with 12 teams each here for several days. And it’s not just the curlers here. You’ll have their family and friends. You’ll have CurlSask officials. You’ll have others coming here.

It’s going to be a lot of money for hotels, restaurants, service stations, retail businesses and so much more.

You’re going to have people here who haven’t been here in a long time. Some might be here for the first time ever. So it’s important to make them feel welcome, so that they will be eager to come back again in the future, whether it be for the next curling competition, some other sporting event, business or other reasons.

When they come here, hopefully they’ll reflect on the great time they had here and the wonderful people they encountered.

When Estevan hosted the Tankard, everyone knew it would be a springboard to bigger and better things when it comes to hosting big-time curling events. The support Estevan showed in January 2018 paid dividends less than a year later when the Canada Cup came to town.

And now we have to wonder what will be in store for Estevan next once the Scotties-Tankard is finished. There are a lot of significant curling events out there, and many of them work better in smaller communities like Estevan.

There is a downside to the Scotties-Tankard. The ice surface at Affinity Place won’t be available for roughly three weeks, during a busy time of year for local hockey teams. It takes time to convert Affinity and other arenas to accommodate curling, and it takes more time to return the ice to hockey use.  

And there are other amenities at Affinity and the Estevan Leisure Centre that won’t be accessible for two weeks. The walking track will be shut down at a time in which it’s the best option for walking and jogging in the community.

These are factors to be considered should Estevan decide to host these events together again or another prominent curling competition that would leave us down to one ice surface for an extended period of time.

But the upside of this event outweighs the negatives. For the next two weeks, the focus of the Saskatchewan curling community is going to be on Estevan. It’s going to be a great time and a wonderful showcase of our city.

Let’s make the most of it.