The Patch is party central

GERRY MODDEJONGE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Where better to launch the Roar of the Rings Olympic curling trials than with a piece of the Patch?

The Keith's Patch welcomed nearly 2,500 of curling's faithful followers at Saturday night's blast.

"It was a very good kickoff," said Patch and Lounge vice-president Tracy Telford.

"They've done opening nights before, usually they've paid big bucks for a name act to try to draw people in. And even then they had trouble doing it."

Instead, the Patch featured up-and-coming Brett Kissel, Wonderland and closed out with Jo Hikk, who were all well-received.

"It was probably a perfect opening night where we had a good crowd -- but not packed," Telford said.

"So it gave us the opportunity to work out some of the kinks and make sure the bars and everything were working."

Because there is no doubt they're going to be in demand all week.

After all, watching curling is thirsty work.

As busy as they were on opening night, it was still less than half the 5,000-person capacity the Patch can handle, along with 2,000 more next door in the O Canada Lounge.

And Telford expects things will be busiest on Friday night

"We've got the Fleetwood Mac and ABBA tribute night," Telford said.

"It was huge at the Worlds in '07 and everyone's been wanting it back and asking for it, so we went on the Friday night for that one.

"It's music that everyone knows and everyone dances to."

The Patch has become synonymous with curling in Canada.

"I believe that people come for the curling, but even the people that come for the full week, the draws are only so often and they're going to have to fill a lot of time if we didn't have a venue like this."

But the recent dip in temperature might be the only obstacle to reaching their potential.

"I believe we'd have probably had 500 to 1,000 more (on opening night) if it wasn't for the weather," said Telford.

It's the one thing the organizers can't control, after planning for the event for more than 18 months.

"It's a lot," Telford said. "I didn't realize before I'd done this, you know. You walked into one of these rooms and have no idea what goes on behind the scenes with electricity, the drapery and the decorations."

All the little things add up, but the one big challenge was finding help.

"Probably the toughest thing always is the volunteer beat," Telford said.

"We've got around 200 volunteers for the Patch and Lounge and that's always challenging, scheduling people. You've got to do shifts and of course not that many people want to work the late shift.

"On the organizational side, you're dealing with a lot of different sponsors. You're dealing with a lot of people."

When he's not tending the Patch, Telford is an accountant. He played in juniors, mixed and men's provincials.

"I've curled competitively for many years," said Telford, who hung up his slider four years ago.

"I know an awful lot of the people. Our meetings are more laughs than anything else. At the venues, I get to touch base with so many old friends."

Saturday will be the last night for the Patch, which closes at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

GERRY.MODDEJONGE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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