Some fixes for MCA's big bonspiel

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

The big bonspiel should be undergoing much-needed dramatic alterations at the big budget bafflegab tonight.

Its future depends on it.

Concerned with a drastic drop in entries at the Manitoba Curling Association's most recent annual spiel, its board will discuss recommendations to combat the problem when it meets in Portage la Prairie.

"It's a budget meeting but certainly, the MCA bonspiel will be a part of major discussions," MCA executive director Ian Staniloff said yesterday. "There are some changes that will come forward but the budget will dictate those recommendations."

The MCA lost about $12,000 when the bonspiel started 45 teams short of the expected 512, which makes a perfect computerized draw. And the worry is that the dwindling entries could become a trend.

That is a significant drop in interest in what had become an institution in this province, one that is world-renowned for being the biggest and best on the planet. And one that so many curlers entered just because it had become so special to the local curling fabric.

So, before it's too late, we have some recommendations of our own for the board members to chew before sending their decisions to the AGM in May.

First, the most troubling issue is the lack of rural entries. It has become too expensive for out-of-town teams.

So, let's get them back. First, make an arrangement with a sponsor to offer one lucky rural entrant free accommodations for the length of their stay. The MCA could even make it one of those early-bird draws that have been so successful for pro franchises when selling season tickets. And offer early bird entries at a reduced rate.

Of course, that means charging more for those late-comers, but that's their problem. And yes, reducing such fees will shave revenues but would be an investment in the future. Besides, having more teams would increase the revenue for the curling clubs involved.

And to make things fair for the city teams, offer them a free entry for an early-bird squad or two out of another draw. Yes, these offers would depend on a willing sponsor but there is still at least nine months to get one.

Shortening the bonspiel so that it ends on Monday is another way to go. Then, curlers would not have to spend as much cash to bunk here and even fewer would have to book off work. Few would object to a guaranteed six games, which would be perfect for the recreational curler anyway.

Whatever is to be decided, the changes to the bonspiel will have to be more than window dressing. There is a lot more than money for entry fees hanging in the balance.


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