London hopes to set Brier attendance record

STEVE GREEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:20 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. - It’s a label Peter Inch doesn’t like to hear given to London, but it could prove to be a good thing if it’s accurate.

The chair of the host committee of the 2011 Tim Hortons Brier said Friday ticket sales for the national men’s curling championship March 5-13 at the John Labatt Centre have surpassed the 100,000 mark. Now it’s up to the last-minute deciders and walk-up sales.

“Everyone keeps telling me about ‘Last-Minute London’ and I don’t like to hear that,” Inch said. “I want everyone here now. I want them to make sure they have their ticket so they’re not disappointed. But if that (reputation) is the case, it’s going to be one tremendous event. If not, then we’re going still to have a pretty good event.”

While his goal was 176,000 to set a Brier attendance record from Winnipeg east, Inch said 120,000 would make him happy. And he said the sales got a huge boost when some of the game’s biggest names — Glenn Howard, Kevin Martin, Jeff Stoughton and Brad Gushue — all booked their trips to the Forest City by winning Ontario, Alberta, Manitoba and Newfoundland/Labrador, respectively.

“If I’d written down all the names I wanted 18 months ago (when London got the Brier), I think I got them all,” Inch said. “Once we got those big names, we saw a large surge in ticket sales. It took a little bit of the pressure off, but we just hope it continues.”

Inch has many of the same people who were on his 2006 Scotties Tournament of Hearts committee with him again this time around, but he said there is one difference when it comes to marketing the events — and selling tickets early.

“With the Scott, we had a team to promote all year in Jennifer Jones and Team Canada,” he said. “With the Brier, you’re hoping for the big names, but you don’t find out who’s coming until mid-February.

“I’d just like to thank the volunteers for the tremendous job they have done and will do. If we don’t reach our target for tickets, it won’t be for lack of effort. We were everywhere in the summer and the volunteers did a fantastic job promoting this.

“But the economy has had an effect. People are being careful with their money these days and they might buy three or four games this time instead of a whole package like in years past. And our demographic is getting a bit older and isn’t able to travel as much, so we need to reach out to the younger demographic.”

London may not have the same fervour for curling as Western Canada does, but Inch said that doesn’t mean this city can’t stage a top-notch Brier.

“London’s got to toot its horn a little more. We’ve got to tell the country what a great place this is and not be shy about it.”

steve.green@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SteveGatLFPress


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