Attendance a bit of a downer

PETER RUICCI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. -- An increase in advanced ticket sales for both tonight and Sunday, have helped turn Sandra Randa's frown upside down.

Disappointed by early attendance figures at the 2010 Scotties, the chair of the host committee for the Sault Ste. Marie event, is optimistic tonight's Team Canada - Ontario showdown and Sunday's 2:30 p.m. final will boost the numbers.

The 12-team, nine-day event began last Saturday at the Essar Centre.

"I feel the last few days will help us compensate for the first few days of what I consider poor attendance," Randa said. "I was very disappointed last weekend. But every day during this week, we've seen a gradual increase."

While she didn't have complete attendance figures available, the chair said attendance of roughly 1,700, both Sunday nighty and Monday night, didn't please her.

"But we did slightly over 2,000 Tuesday night," Randa said Wednesday afternoon. "And things are looking so much better for Thursday (tonight) as far as ticket sales go. We've sold a tremendous number of tickets for the Ontario - Canada game."

A concern, Randa continued, is that some fans may be under the misconception that tickets for tonight's draw, which matches defending champion Jennifer Jones and Krista McCarville's Thunder Bay rink, sentimental favourites in the Sault, may be difficult to come by.

"Word out there is that we're sold out for Thursday, but we're not," Randa said. "There are still tickets available. And tickets, I can tell you, are selling fast for Sunday's final."

Canadian Curling Association (CCA) event manager Gord McNabb said he shares Randa's optimism for a strong finish.

"So far, it's been slow, but things are picking up as we move on," McNabb said. "As it looks now, we'll meet our objective."

That objective, he added, is 53,000 — combined paid attendance and complimentary seats for sponsors

It should be noted that a fan purchasing a full-event package, would be counted 21 times for attendance purposes, once for each of 21 draws on the event schedule.

"We knew it would go this way," McNabb said. "Opening weekend is always a little quieter than closing weekend."

But asked if last weekend was even quieter than anticipated, McNabb answered in the affirmative.

"I think the weather last weekend hurt our walkup business," McNabb said. "Would we love to have the building sold out for every draw? Yes. But momentum is picking up and we think that starting Thursday, it'll be busy."

Randa was asked whether she thought the fact this is an Olympic year, with some curling diehards heading to Vancouver to watch Cheryl Bernard and Kevin Martin compete in the Winter Games, has thinned the number of visitors to the Sault.

"I think some big curling fans from the West may be volunteering at the Olympic curling," Randa said. "But a bigger factor, I think, was the Olympic Trials in Edmonton. In my opinion, a lot of people traveled to the Trials instead of going to the Scotties or the Brier this year."

"It's possible (the Olympics) has had an effect on attendance. But I don't know how much of an effect," McNabb said. "You always depend a lot on the local market for ticket sales."

Asked to assess the job Randa and the Sault committee has done, McNabb gave the group a glowing review.

"Based on the number of Scotties I've done," said McNabb, working on his sixth Canadian women's championship, "as far as on-ground promotion and on-ground activities, this has been the best yet. The host committee here really got the message out. They've been excellent."


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