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Size of crowds hasn't matched quality of competitors at Olympic Curling Trials

Canadian Press photo/Adrian Wyld — Brad Gushue discusses a potential shot with teammates Geoff Walker, Mark Nichols and Brett Gallant during their Olympic Curling Trials game against the John Morris rink Monday in Ottawa. The best curlers in the country are at the Trials, but as evidenced by all the empty seats shown in this photo, the 18,000-seat Canadian Tire Centre hasn’t been anything close to even half full.
Canadian Press photo/Adrian Wyld — Brad Gushue discusses a potential shot with teammates Geoff Walker, Mark Nichols and Brett Gallant during their Olympic Curling Trials game against the John Morris rink Monday in Ottawa. The best curlers in the country are at the Trials, but as evidenced by all the empty seats shown in this photo, the 18,000-seat Canadian Tire Centre hasn’t been anything close to even half full.

Attendance has been disappointing through the first half of the Trials

Mile One Centre will never play host to a Canadian Olympic Curling Trials, but Curling Canada could have been doing much better at the gate if these 2017 Roar of the Rings were held in St. John’s.

Attendance, or lack of, has been a bit of a story here in Ottawa, where the top 18 men’s and women’s curling teams are vying for two spots in the 2018 Olympic Games.

The Trials are being staged at the Canadian Tire Centre, an 18,000-seat building that’s home to the Ottawa Senators.

The largest single-draw turnout to date was Saturday afternoon’s opening draw, which drew 5,774.

Wednesday morning’s draw attracted 3,686 customers, while the 2 o’clock afternoon draw drew 3,686.

What’s shocking is a Tuesday night draw, which saw only 3,448 go through the turnstiles.

One of the games featured hometown favourite Rachel Homan, who is right in the thick of it in the women’s field.

At the Tim Hortons Brier last year, 122,592 went through the doors at Mile One, amongst the top 20 attendances of all-time at the Canadian men’s curling championship.

Those numbers beat the 2016 Ottawa Brier, which attracted 115,047.

That Brier was held at TD Place at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, home to the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67s and the CFL’s Ottawa Renegades.

That was where the Grey Cup was staged two weeks ago.

Up to and including Wednesday afternoon’s draw at the Trials, total attendance was 55,793.

Part of the reason for the low turnout has to do with the arena itself, and its location. Canadian Tire Centre is about 25 kilometres from downtown Ottawa and the restaurants, pubs and shops, or about a 30-minute drive.

Even the Brier Patch is a hike from the arena. Organizers are offering a free shuttle service from Canadian Tire Centre, but it’s said to stop running 10:30 p.m. nightly, leaving patrons with a good walk back to their vehicles.

Tweeted Jamie Koe, a veteran Brier curler with the Northwest Territories, and brother of Kevin Koe: “Patch is miles from the rink, 40 km from anywhere, 43 km from Gatineau/Hull, also doesn’t even have tokens, zero people there.”

So why were the Trials not held at TD Place, situated in an area that has undergone major restoration with restaurants and pubs, vs nothing in the vicinity of Canadian Tire Place?

Apparently, the Trials bid was submitted before the Brier bid, and once Canadian Tire Centre was cited as the venue, there was no changing.

 

rshort@thetelegram.com

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