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Woolwich gets ready to host curling championships

The Elmira & District Curling Club led the township’s bid to host the provincial curling championships. While members get in some time on ice at the club’s facility, the event will be hosted at the WMC. [Faisal Ali / The Observer]

Hot on the heels of last week’s ringette tournament, the Township of Woolwich will be gearing up to host one of the biggest curling competitions in the province. The CurlON Provincial Men & Women’s Curling Championships will be kicking off January 27 at the Woolwich Memorial Centre, bringing in thousands of spectators and some of the top curlers in the province – and indeed, the country – to compete.

Ten men’s teams and eight women’s, including the likes of Canadian Olympic curler Rachel Holman out of Ottawa, and world champions Glen Howard and John Epping, will be amongst those competing at the Elmira arenas for a chance to represent Ontario at the Canadian nationals.

“In the curling world, to have your name out there is very exciting,” said Sue Martin, chairperson of the championship organizing committee, and member of the Elmira District Curling Club who helped put in the township’s bid for the event.

“It’s extremely exciting. Extremely a lot of work,” added Martin with a laugh. “We have been working on this for over a year.”

Up to an estimated 10,000 spectators are expected to pack the stands at the WMC at the height of the championships, which will be run in a set of round-robin matches and culminate in the final weekend with the playoffs. For township residents, the local venue of this year’s championships are a prime opportunity to watch some of the pre-eminent athletes of the sport perform.

“Rachel Holman is a Canadian champion. She was a world champion, she was our Olympic representative last year, and she’s going to be here,” said Martin. “Another high profile on the men’s side is Glen Howard. He’s been to these provincials 15 times. He’s won them 15 times, and he’s going to be here. Last year’s winner, John Epping, he will be here.

“So we’re really excited to see high profile names like that,” she added. Up-and-coming local talent will also be joining at the championships, rubbing elbows with some of the sport’s greats.

The women’s and men’s championships have been merged into a single event at the WMC, and the victors from each will move on to represent Ontario at the provincial games. For the women’s teams, that is the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, which will be hosted in Sydney, Nova Scotia, from February 16 to 24. The men meanwhile will go on to compete at the 2019 Tim Hortons Brier in Brandon, Manitoba from March 2 to 10.

The winners of those respective tournaments will finally go on to represent Canada on the world stage, at LGT World Women’s Curling Championship Denmark and the Pioneer Hi-Bred World Men’s Curling Championship in Alberta.

The Elmira Curling Club led the successful bid to host the games, though the township was fully in support of the move, says Martin.

“I am very excited about the provincials being held here,” said Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz in an email. “We also just finished hosting university ringette and will also host the National Sledge Hockey tournament in May.  When I met with organizers for curling and hockey, they were impressed with our facilities and are looking forward to great events.”

The eight-day tournament is expected to draw in an estimated $1.4 million in tourism to the region, according to estimates provided by CurlOn, and could also help attract more high-profile events to the township.

“This is a really big year for Woolwich and the Elmira area,” said Sherry Doiron, manager of the sport hosting office for the Waterloo Region. “They’ve just hosted the University Ringette Challenge a week ago and they’re gearing up to host this event. And then in May the National Sledge Hockey Championships will be hosted at Woolwich arena as well. So it’s a fantastic six months for that area to be doing some sport hosting. So I’m very happy to see how active the community is being in the region.”

Tickets for the events, including single day tickets, weekend tickets and full passes  are available online  at www.curlonchamps.ca, ranging from $12 for the singles to $150 for the full pass.

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