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This article was published 10/3/2016 (2141 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — With this year’s Brier now past the halfway point, it is safe to say attendance for this year’s Canadian men’s curling championship is going to be better than some feared, but still nowhere near as good as it used to be.
A Brier schedule including round robin and playoffs — but not including any possible tiebreakers — runs 22 draws these days, so there were some inferences to be drawn when this event officially hit the halfway point with the completion of the 11th draw on Wednesday morning.
Total attendance through 11 draws was 48,868, an average of 4,443 per draw or just over half the 8,200 capacity of TD Place for curling.
With organizers expecting a big closing weekend — they are selling standing-room-only tickets for Sunday’s final — the final attendance for this event will likely come in at somewhere around 110,000.
So how does that compare? Well, the last time the Brier was held in this facility — back in 2001 — the attendance for the week was 154,136.
That’s a big drop-off, but a lot has changed in the hosting of live curling events, and this year’s numbers have to be regarded within the larger context of an event that has seen precipitous attendance declines for years now.
The days of fans jamming major NHL arenas for the Brier — Edmonton set the all-time attendance record of 281,985 back in 2005 — became a thing of the past long before this Brier ever rolled into the nation’s capital.
Last year’s Brier in Calgary, for instance, drew just 151,835 to the Saddledome — a little over half the 246,126 who attended the Brier in the same building six years earlier.
And while this year’s edition of an Ottawa Brier is nothing like the 2001 version in the same building, it’s still leaps and bounds above the debacle in Kamloops just two years ago. The Kamloops Brier drew just 65,005 spectators — the most poorly attended Brier since Chicoutimi in 1988.
With so many major Western Canadian cities now burned out on live curling, Curling Canada is looking east to put some life back into the Brier, staging back-to-back Briers in Eastern Canada this year and again next year when the event will be held in St. John’s, N.L., for the first time since 1972.
Reports out of St. John’s this week are advance ticket deposits have been off the charts in St. John’s, and there are hopes next year’s event could play to near-capacity crowds all week long at the 7,000-seat Mile One Centre.
The last major Canadian championship to be held at the Mile One Centre was in 2005 when Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones won the Scotties with one of the most memorable walk-off shots in Canadian curling history — an in-off-for-four to defeat Ontario’s Jenn Hanna in the final.
Paul Wiecek was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End and delivered the Free Press -- 53 papers, Machray Avenue, between Main and Salter Streets -- long before he was first hired as a Free Press reporter in 1989.