Olympic trials a hit in Edmonton

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:13 AM ET

First to arrive, Thursday, were Glenn Howard and Jennifer Jones.

Most of the others, beginning with Jeff Stoughton and Krista McCarville at 8:45 a.m arrive Friday.

The Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Olympic trials competitors arrive with great expectations of a once-in-a-lifetime event in the city which has earned the reputation as the world's rock show host with the most.

It was put perfectly by Jones prior to departure from Winnipeg.

“To go and play in front of that many people in that venue for the chance to go to the Olympics, that's exciting. That's what we train for. That's what we're prepared for. We just want to soak it up. It's going to be amazing.”

And what will it be like, exactly?

Well, it might come down to the walk-up crowd for Sunday's first draw for it to happen, but the Edmonton curling tradition of beating previous event attendance records before the first rock is thrown is still alive.

Ticket sales hit the 150,000 mark Thursday – 150,088 to be exact.

Sunday's opening draw sales sat at 8,229 and 7,657 with early week draws ranging from 6,200 to to 7,500.

A week before any match-ups have been made 9,645 tickets for the women's semi-final and 10,021 for the men's have been sold at $40 a ticket and 9,840 for Saturday's women's final and 10,419 for Sunday's men's final at $50 each have also been sold.

With media bench and TV positions as well as the reserved-for-volunteers south side upper deck eliminated from the equation, capacity is about 13,500.

As far as CCA events boss Warren Hansen is concerned, Edmonton can keep the claim to fame regardless.

“People forget that the previous trials had 10 teams in both men's and women's with nine games per team. We've cut it back to eight teams and seven games each for this event. We're going from 22 or 23 draws to 18 here,” he said.

The trials record of 159,235 in Halifax four years ago was over 23 draws.

That's an average of 6,923 per draw.

In Edmonton, with the expectations of the usual last minute spike with the teams in town and the big event build-up to determine Canada's curling teams to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, the Thursday pre-sale total of 150,088 for 18 draws represents an average of 8,338.

“With 22 draws like the Brier and Worlds we'd be sitting at 180,000 or 190,000 on our way to 250,000,” said Hansen.

Randy Ferbey won the 2005 Brier here which drew an all-time curling record attendance of 281,985 (average 12,817) and Glenn Howard won the 2007 Worlds setting an event record of 184,970 (average 8,407).

“The ticket prices for the trials are the highest for an event we've ever had. There was a lot of debate but the decision was that this product was worth the price. We felt people would be coming to watch the best curling the world has ever seen,” Hansen said of the event Edmonton paid a million dollar upfront fee to land, also a first.

“For the final weekend I think there's a very good chance for a full house. If the Edmonton teams do well this week it could be very interesting,” said Hansen of Kevin Martin, Randy Ferbey and Kevin Koe.

“If they do well, this could be very, very successful,” he said of walk-up crowds which are traditionally higher for this event than Briers because of the way drama builds and because of the stakes involved.

There will be some soft crowds early. It has been suggested that the women would have to play nude to draw a crowd for the 8:30 a.m. draw Monday.

But don't be too sure, says Hansen.

“The trials bring the hard core curling fan. The trials bring out the most serious fans from all around the country, and while they'll still be in the Keith's Patch and enjoying the fun surrounding the event, they're coming for the curling, more of them from further away as a rule. In Halifax we had 1,000 people from Ontario alone.”

Get ready to roar. The roaring game is back in town for an experience Edmonton hasn't had before and might want to have again and again every four years if it turns out to be as good as the curlers and everybody else involved think it's likely to be.


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