Grey Cup preparations well underway

TERRY JONES, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 PM ET

EDMONTON — The Grey Cup and the Brier have a lot in common.

They are the nation's top two sporting celebrations of Canadiana. Both have been called the Grand Nation Drunk, one being a bit of a sprint and the other being more of a marathon. And now they have another thing in common — Janna Tominuk.

The gal who answered an Edmonton Sun want-ad to become the event director of the 1999 Brier and went on to produce the 2005 Brier, 2007 Worlds and 2009 Olympic trials successes which followed, has started work as the director of operations of the 98th Grey Cup here this year.

Tominuk has been brought on to deal mostly with the downtown festival organization part of the production.

Indeed, early success in raising funds to put on the event made it possible.

“It's definitely allowed us to hire someone of her calibre. I think bringing Janna on board tells you we're trying to make it the biggest Grey Cup festival ever. She's exactly who we need to pull it off and make it the best one ever,” said Grey Cup executive director Duane Vienneau.

“We're lucky to have her. She's as good as they get in the planning of events. Eighty per cent of her job will be related to putting together the plans downtown,” said Vienneau of the production which will include “a building-like 100% heated tent structure covering all of Winston Churchill Square, which will be very family activity based; another structure nearby will be more adult in scope.

City Hall and the Shaw Conference Centre will also be in the mix for many of the party events, and most every facility in between. The Spirit of Edmonton will be in the Westin.

“We're trying to keep it all all as close and compact as possible so you can walk to it all,” he added.

Eskimos CEO Rick LeLacheur said hiring Tominuk away from the Canadian Curling Association is another positive for the event which is dealing almost entirely with positives to the point.

“We're way ahead of where we were from the 2002 Grey Cup in sponsorship.

I'd say double,” said LeLacheur, indicating he expects to reach the $2 million mark.

With season ticket holders allowed to double up for the big game, Grey Cup tickets are tracking well, too, he said.

“We expect to go into the public sale June 1 with more than half the tickets sold. We've already doubled our new season ticket sales from last year.”

LeLacheur is hoping the Eskimos will be able to match the Calgary Stampeders' achievement of selling out McMahon Stadium for last year's Grey Cup prior to the end of September.

It will be a significantly different Commonwealth Stadium for this one with new artificial turf and new lights being constructed, along with a fieldhouse worth more than $100 million, and a new state of the art home dressing room with two floors of Eskimos office space taking over the second and third levels of the south end stadium complex.

But the Eskimos expect to make a major impact with the downtown production of the Grey Cup with the focus to bring the festival part of proceedings to a level where it's never been before and that's where Tominuk will make her mark.

Tominuk said she decided it was time to leave curling.

“I needed a change,” she said.

“The Grey Cup is a great opportunity. It keeps me in the city. And it's a huge downtown festival we're planning with tents and fencing and the volunteers, transport and security to deal with and a lot of planning.

“It's great because I'm dealing with a lot of stuff I know and a lot of stuff I don't know.”

She didn't know stuff about curling when she started, either.

Terry Morris, the man most responsible for bringing the big curling events to Edmonton, said it's remarkable to look back on the day Tominuk answered the Sun ad and went on to not only organize the Edmonton events and a few other CCA tournaments but to leave a legacy of having written the CCA manual on how to organize a Brier or other major event for future host cities and organizing committees.

“In 1997, Janna came to the interview with Warren Hansen of the CCA and told us 'You need me.'

“Here's this inexperienced kid in a brown polyester pantsuit with no curling knowledge and we need her?

“But she was the best of what we had to select from. We taught her about curling, the traditions of the Brier and the politics behind curling and she taught us how to be organized.

“She has a real knack for getting the most out of volunteers which is one of the reasons Edmonton events have been so successful.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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