The people of Kamloops love the sport of curling, and they love attracting hordes of visitors even more.
From March 1 to 9, 2014, they'll get the best of both worlds when the Canadian men's curling championship — the Tim Hortons Brier — comes to Kamloops.
More than 100 curling enthusiasts cheered and celebrated the news at the Interior Savings Centre on Tuesday before lining up to have their photos taken with the coveted 85-year-old Brier Tankard.
The 2014 Brier will be the first one to include a Team Canada in its field — the winner of the 2013 Brier will be designated Team Canada and awarded a berth in the 2014 championship. As well, the 2014 Brier winner will move on to the Ford World championship that is expected to be played in China.
The Brier is mostly held in larger venues — the 2013 event will be held March 2-10 in Edmonton's 16,839-seat Rexall Place. The Interior Savings Centre has the capacity for 5,500.
Despite the smaller venue, the event's success is assured thanks to a combined $200,000 from the provincial government and the B.C. Lottery Corp. and an additional combined $100,000 from the City of Kamloops and Tourism Kamloops, said Hansen.
"The financial things that we needed to put in place to make it feasible were done," Warren Hansen, the Canadian Curling Association's director of events, said. "As a result we feel this event can be quite successful."
The Brier has also seen smaller crowds over the past four years or so as a result of a weaker economy.
"In 1996, the tickets were sold out a year ahead time, that used to be the way the Brier went," Hansen said. "I don't think we expect to sell this out way ahead of time."
But he still encouraged people to purchase tickets ahead of time, saying he doesn't think there will be many "extra" tickets.
Norm Daley, organizing chair for the 2014 Brier and managing partner of the Kamloops accounting firm Daley and Company, got the ball rolling with a phone call to Hansen two years ago.
That was shortly after Kamloops lost the bid for the 2015 Canada Winter Games, which are to be held in Prince George.
"It wasn't nice being in the loser cruiser, I can tell you," said Daley of the drive home from the Winter Games announcement.
That's when the idea to play host to the Brier arose.
"That's what we do, we continually go for events like this," said Mayor Peter Milobar.
In return for its hosting duties and financial support, the City expects to receive millions of dollars worth of exposure and visitor dollars.
TSN will televise 60 hours of the competition and vignettes about Kamloops.
"The television coverage will mean valuable exposure for the region and the tens of thousands of visitors will make a real difference for local businesses and families," said Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger.
According to an economic impact assessment after the 2009 Brier in Calgary, combined spending by visitors to the city, plus revenues and expenditures of the host organizing committee and others, totalled $9.3 million.
The CCA is expected to hit its usual total profit of about $1 million.
Hansen also unveiled a television ad campaign during Tuesday's announcement trumpeting the slogan: "You gotta be there."
"It's the most value-packed admissions ticket in all of Canadian sports," states the ad.
Curling enthusiasts at the gathering couldn't have agreed more.
Elaine Kujat wore her City of Kamloops Labatt Brier 1996 sweatshirt to the announcement. She attended the 1996 competition with her husband, then-City of Kamloops recreation director Dennis Kujat.
The Kujats recalled the spirit of fun and camaraderie among the thousands of visitors who came from all over the country 16 years ago.
Fans have the opportunity to get up close and personal with their favourite athletes, said Elaine. That might include Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg, who won the 1996 Brier at Memorial Arena. Glenn Howard of Ottawa is the defending champion, having won in Saskatoon in March.
In 1996, Memorial Arena was packed every day from 8 a.m. to midnight, said Dennis. It also overflowed to side events like the Brier Patch party tent outside.
Milobar said Kamloops successfully vies for tournament bids in large part because of partner groups, facility user groups and volunteers.
"The local curling clubs fully got behind this," he said. "Without that sports specific volunteer base none of these events would be possible. That support … is what's enabled us to get events like this that other cities our size quite frankly just can't host."
About the Brier
* The Canadian men's curling championship began in 1927 as the Macdonald Brier and was sponsored by Macdonald Tobacco for its first 50 years.
* Macdonald was also responsible for introducing both the Brier Tankard (originally named the British Consols Trophy after a brand of cigarettes) and the now famous heart-shaped patches awarded to the tournament winners.
* The patches were modeled after a small tin heart pressed into the centre of Macdonald tobacco plugs, along with the slogan "The Heart of the Tobacco." The same heart appeared on tins of Macdonald pipe tobacco.
* Kamloops played host to the Labatt Brier in 1996.
* Kamloops will become the third two-time host in the province after Vancouver (1950, 1978) and Victoria (1958, 1984).
* Tim Hortons has been the title sponsor since 2005.
* The 2013 Brier will be held in the 16,839-seat Rexall Centre in Edmonton.
* The Rexall Centre holds the record for highest attendance at the Brier in 2005 with 281,985 fans over the nine-day event.
* The 2011 Tim Horton Brier in London, Ont., which was held in the 9,100-seat John Labatt Centre, drew 113,626 fans.