Ian Staniloff says the decision to reduce the number of teams in the Manitoba Curling Association's Men's Bonspiel does not take the shine off the event.
"Not at all," the MCA's executive director said yesterday. "It will still have the same number of Select (provincial men's championship qualifying) spots. That was never an issue. It is still a men's-only bonspiel, because some people had raised issues about maybe opening it up. That's not what we're looking at at this point.
"And it probably still is the world's largest single-gender, single-event bonspiel."
The MCA will limit next winter's field to 448 teams instead of the 512 it had been accepting since 1994. That means next year's bonspiel -- the 118th annual -- will have the fewest teams since only 323 competed in 1966.
"It's a significant change, and we'll see," Staniloff said. "If the demand is there, if all of a sudden a waiting list is created and we're getting some pressure to expand it, we'll go back.
This year's bonspiel attracted only 467 teams. In 2004, the bonspiel fell three rinks short of a full 512-team field.
The number of rural participants has been declining each year, so the MCA is going to focus on filling the bonspiel with Winnipeg rinks.
And to make the city clubs happy, the MCA is doing away with the Saturday afternoon buffet, which had been held at the Victoria Inn -- the event's headquarters.
Instead, curlers will get meal vouchers to use at city clubs. That will be done on a two-year trial run.
"The curling clubs have been on our case about that in terms of they don't see that revenue on the Saturday," Staniloff said. "They find that their clubs don't have any activity.
"... We're going to put the onus on the city clubs to ensure the bonspiel is full. They're the ones who are saying, 'Give us back the business.' Let's see how that works out."
In addition, the MCA won't have to use curling clubs outside the perimeter, since there will be fewer teams, and it plans to put a firm entry deadline in place.