Kids to cash in on Slam

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:08 AM ET

The Grand Slam's Canadian Open could raise some serious coin for kids' research if it can draw crowds.

The third leg of the Slam will be held at Winnipeg's MTS Centre, Jan. 27-30, 2005 and net proceeds will go to the Children's Hospital Foundation.

"The total amount we're hoping to raise this year is around $100,000," Meredith McArthur, the foundation's board chair, said at the official announcement held at the Manitoba Institute of Child Health yesterday. "We're not really sure how it's going to go because this will be the first year (of a planned three-year stint).

"We've got a good start with Quintex (Services) on board (as local title sponsor), the province, the city and a few other people who have agreed to sponsor this event."

The money raised will go to research programs and equipment for the Children's Hospital, with a portion to the Children's Sports Legacy. The foundation already hosts an annual golf tournament but was seeking a winter fundraiser. So, it got together with Jon Mead, a World Curling Players' Association vice-president and third for Jeff Stoughton. And the event was a Slam-dunk.

"We have a high profile in the community but we're really thinking that this curling event will raise it," McArthur said.

A Pro-Am should raise added revenue. But filling the 8,800 seats in the lower bowl at the Centre will be the stiffest challenge.

"It's a great idea to put it into the new arena," said Stoughton, one of five Manitoba teams to be competing. "People are going to check it out. I don't think anyone expects us to put 10,000 people in the stands but if we can get a good turnout, that's what we're looking forward to and why not? You've got a great event, great sponsors and a great charity now and that's what most events are going to start looking for. It's just so much easier to go to corporate Canada when you've got a charity backing you and they know where their money's going."

The $100,000 Slam will feature the best field ever assembled on Winnipeg ice, including Alberta's multiple-Brier champion Randy Ferbey and Olympic silver medallist Kevin Martin, Ontario's former world champion Wayne Middaugh and Quebec's ever-popular Guy Hemmings.

However, this will be the largest venue ever for a Slam event.

"It's where the Slam has always wanted to go," Mead said. "I think it's time. We see the interest is there. We got some great TV ratings from the first one in Hamilton a couple of weeks ago (270,000 viewers on Sportsnet). It's the right time of the year. It's a perfect venue in the sense that, even if we forget about how good the curling is, it's a very neat way to see the facility. I think it will do very well at the arena."

Hooking up with such a worthwhile cause should also improve the Slammers' image among those who still have not forgiven them for boycotting the Brier for two years.

"It's a huge fundraiser for the foundation," Mead said. "That's the primary purpose of it.

"I think this will be a landmark event -- assuming that we can pull off the success for this."

The activities will also include a Festival of Rock program for children and a tavern for adults.


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