Rockin' the house

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:55 AM ET

One milestone down, one record to go.

The Edmonton 2005 Brier has now surpassed the attendance figures set here in 1999 and is assured of an all-time record by this weekend.

Yesterday's totals hit 243,890, moving the 2005 Brier into the No. 3 all-time spot with just under a month to go.

"That's great," said Terry Morris, president of the 2005 organizing committee, moments after the figures were revealed at a meeting yesterday afternoon.

"We expect to break the record before the end of the week. Before we throw the first rock."

Only Deane Horning (B.C.), Wade Blanchard (New Brunswick) and Brad Gushue (Newfoundland) have already qualified for this year's Brier.

The all-time record of 248,793 was set at the 2000 Brier in Saskatoon.

Morris expects 7,000 tickets will be added to the total this week as the application deadline for the Enmax-sponsored school program has passed and the figures are being tallied this week.

That would raise combined attendance totals past the quarter-million mark and create a real good shot at the 300,000 goal.

In its sponsorship agreement, Enmax had agreed to a block-ticket purchase that will see Grade 6 students from about 40 schools attend each afternoon draw between March 7-9.

"We're just trying to figure out how many schools have responded and by Friday we expect to officially announce we've broken an all-time record," said Morris.

It's really just a formality now.

The Brier committee will have representatives manning a kiosk at the men's provincial championship starting tomorrow at Innisfail.

"The whole provincials atmosphere this weekend will help," Morris said. "People will pick up tickets there if they haven't already."

Day passes went on sale Jan. 15 and single-draw tickets will go on sale Feb. 19.

But there's already a shortage starting to develop on the final weekend.

Morris said there's less than 2,000 tickets available for each draw starting on Thursday and running through to Sunday.

Chances look good now that the March 13 final will be a complete sellout, with more than 15,000 in attendance.

Morris does not buy into the theory that ticket sales have been artificially boosted because of labour turmoil in the NHL.

Curling's television numbers have been growing consistently stronger over the past several years.

Especially in Western Canada, which has much different preferences than central Canadian markets.

"I don't think the NHL has anything to do with it," said Morris. "All you have to do is take a look at the numbers for the Ferbey-Dacey final last year. That drew better numbers than the Stanley Cup and was pretty competitive with the Grey Cup."

Last year's Brier final drew better Canadian numbers than Game 7 of last fall's Yankees-BoSox series, one of the top-rated baseball games of all time.

The top eight all-time Brier attendances have all happened since 1997 in Calgary.

That's when the Canadian Curling Association made a deliberate decision to hold its showcase event in NHL-sized arenas whenever possible.


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