Hearts a big test for London

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

Peter Inch wants the curling crowd to put its money where its mouth is but, more importantly, to put its bottom where its backing is.

And that's in the John Labatt Centre seats next year when the Scott Tournament of Hearts is in London, Feb. 25-March 5. Big crowd support, the organizing committee chairperson said, will cinch other biggies such as the Olympic trials and Brier.

"What I've been telling all the curling clubs is if you want to see the Olympic trials and the Brier, you have to put yourself in the seats," Inch said after returning home from the Scott in St. John's, Nfld. "If they don't, then don't complain if we don't get (the other two competitions)."

Inch said the major push has yet to begin as he held off during the leadup to St. John's. That will get underway now and with even more gusto once the Memorial Cup is completed, he said.

In less than three weeks since tickets went on sale, 650 weekly passes have been sold. Some 6,000 passes is the target for the JLC.

Inch was impressed with the St. John's hospitality -- always a big part of such events -- but not with the bottoms in the seats.

"It wasn't that well- supported by Atlantic Canada; there were some draws that were light and that's where we hope to change it."

There have been some concerns that having the hospitality away from the competition site -- at the London Convention Centre -- might be a negative. Inch said there'll be shuttles but in St. John's many fans wanted to stroll after events.

"The Heart Stop Lounge at the convention centre will be the biggest they've ever had," Inch said. "We'll be taking the whole convention centre and it's going to be really spectacular."

One twist he's hoping to incorporate is use of the Rotary Rink across the street from the JLC for open-air curling demonstrations and the like. Talks are underway with Ford for the lease-free use of a vehicle as the prize in a charity campaign.

Part of the plans are to have the curling rink in a week before the event so local clubs can run their competitions and draw attention to the Hearts.

"This event will make us or break us," Inch said. "If we can sell it out, the Olympic trials and the Brier should come next."

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