London hits curling button

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:10 AM ET

The Brier, the Canadian men's curling championship, will be returning to London after a 37-year absence.

The Canadian Curling Association has called a news conference for tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., where it will announce the 2011 Brier is coming to London.

The event will be held over nine days in early March at the John Labatt Centre.

Peter Inch, who was vital in bringing the Scott Tournament of Hearts back to London in 2006 after a 20-year absence, wouldn't comment on the nature of the news conference at the John Labatt Centre.

"The event will be announced at the press conference," he said.

It's known Inch has been after something big for this area, and those events included a Brier or Olympic curling trials.

Inch has been building a reputation for being able to sell London and area on major curling competitions.

He also led the group that put on a successful 2002 Canadian senior championship in St. Thomas.

One of the major stumbling blocks to bringing a Brier to Eastern Canada has been the difficulty in selling tickets.

The 2008 Brier held in Hamilton was a disappointment. Attendance totalled about 107,000.

That's a far cry from the sold-out venues, many of them larger than the JLC, when the Brier is held in Western Canada. With the Brier a big money-maker for the Canadian Curling Association, it's difficult for it to risk going to an area that might not attract the kind of attendance it wants.

The attendance at the Canadian women's championship -- known as the Scotties -- and seniors' championship, as well as the nice setup at the JLC, may have swayed the CCA to bring it to Ontario again.

John Winston, general manager of Tourism London, wouldn't divulge details of the news conference but said he'd be glad to see another major curling event come to London. "The women's championship was an extraordinary success," he said of the 2006 competition. "It was lucrative financially for the downtown. Everyone was happy with it." Londoners could see some of the top men's rinks in the world, possibly including those skipped by Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard.

The last time the Brier came to London, it was held at London Gardens in 1974.

The 2009 Brier was held in Calgary and the 2010 Brier returns to Halifax.


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