From a small idea to a big success

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

INNISFAIL -- It's an idea that took 11 years to ripen.

When Jim Donner was at the 1994 Red Deer Brier, he ran into a Saskatchewan fan who wondered why the Alberta curling championship was not held in an arena.

Good idea figured the grain farmer who lives a couple of miles southwest of Innisfail.

When he heard Stettler was awarded the first arena event in 2001, he had another thought.

Why not Innisfail?

Now that the event has wound up, it's co-chair said he's glad the seeds of that idea ended up as a pretty good money-maker.

"It think it exceeded what we thought we would do," said Donner. "On Saturday, we surpassed $150,000 in revenues for the whole deal.

"By the time we're done, we should be sitting at about $50,000 profit."

It was costly to convert the ice surface of the adjacent curling club into the Last Rock Pub.

"We went to a ton of expense to put that up," said Donner.

Many of the record 11,250 fans for the 12-draw event snapped up more than 20,000 drink tokens, the equivalent of 17,000 dozen beer, and watched live entertainment.

"Our idea was if you build it, they'll come," said Donner, who saw Last Rock crowds steadily build. "It started to snowball."

The biggest thing Donner came away with was something good happened to connect the community.

"This event does not get lost in a small town like Innisfail, population 6,000, like it does in the big cities.

"I have met people that I wouldn't have met or probably wouldn't have associated with if it hadn't been for this event," said Donner.

"People that I knew have become very close friends and will be life-long friends. Some of the people had no idea what curling was all about, but they got on board and have been just great."


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