LONDON, Ont. -- It's a jackpot for Winnipeg, but it is also the biggest financial gamble in the history of Canadian curling.
The Canadian Curling Association on Wednesday confirmed what the Free Press reported on Tuesday -- that Winnipeg will host the next Canadian Curling Trials, Dec. 1-8, 2013, at the MTS Centre.
That was old news. But what was new was the revelation from CCA CEO Greg Stremlaw that Winnipeg had paid a record $1 million hosting fee to secure the Trials rights over rival bidders in Saskatoon and Ottawa.
That's $250,000 more than the $750,000 minimum the CCA had set out for qualifying bids -- and about $100,000 more than the $900,000 organizers in Edmonton reportedly paid to host the 2009 Trials.
That's a big financial gamble for Winnipeg organizers, but Curl Manitoba executive director Shane Ray said it's worth it.
"This is huge for Winnipeg," Ray said in a telephone interview from Winnipeg. "There was so much effort that went into all this, it's so nice to see it pay off."
While Winnipeg paid a premium to secure the hosting rights, Ray explained the hosting agreement for the Trials puts the entire responsibility for staging the event on the CCA, which is different than curling events like the Brier where the hosting committee also plays a large role.
"All we're responsible for is supplying the volunteers and selling the tickets," Ray said. "And so if they need to bring in dehumidifiers, for instance, like they've had to do in London, that will come out of their budget, not ours."
There were ventilation issues at the MTS Centre the last time it hosted a major curling event, the 2008 Brier, and those can be costly to fix. In London, the local committee had to scramble to come up with $40,000 last weekend to bring in portable dehumidifiers after rainy weather on the weekend wreaked havoc with ice conditions.
"Winnipeg has a great proven track record and also had a professional bid," said Stremlaw, adding the large hosting fee speaks to the cachet the Trials have acquired as an event.
"It says a lot," Stremlaw said. "It shows we have an attractive asset."
The 2009 Trials in Edmonton, despite the large hosting fee organizers paid, still turned a profit. That event drew 175,582 spectators, marginally more than the 165,075 that attended the 2008 Brier in Winnipeg.
Eight men's and eight women's teams will compete at MTS Centre for the right to represent Canada in curling at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The fields will be decided this way:
-- Winners of the 2011 and 2012 Canada Cup
-- Top points getters on the Canadian Team Ranking system for 2011-12 and 2012-13
-- Top two points getters on the CTRS for the two-year period 2011-13
-- Two winners of a 12-team Pre-Trials competition to be held Nov. 6-10, 2013, location TBA
Jeff Stoughton third Jon Mead said he'll be at the MTS Centre in December 2013, no matter what happens to his team on the ice in the interim.
"I'll be involved in it one way or the other -- even if it's just as a guy sitting with a beer in the stands cheering on my buddies," Mead said Wednesday. "It's the right move for everyone -- I can't think of a better place to put it and I'm excited for the city."