Penticton drawing economic weight from the Continental Cup

Wayne Martyn and his wife Cathy faced a 670 kilometre trek and a snowstorm to get to Penticton for the World Financial Group Continental Cup.

“We are from away to use the PEI expression,” said Martyn, who will be volunteering with his wife on the arena ice and rocks crew.

The couple didn’t want to miss catching some of the top curlers in the world, who begin competition on Thursday at the South Okanagan Events Centre. Having both volunteered  at the Scotties and Brier previously, they jumped at the chance to volunteer in Penticton at the Continental Cup.

“One of the reasons we get involved is to see the best curling in the world because when you volunteer you are on the ice right where the action is. The biggest part of it is to see different parts of the country and even bigger meet new people,” said Wayne. “People are very kind and friendly at these events and we have already experienced that here.”

It is that attitude embedded in the culture of curling that the Continental Cup organizers hopes to bank on for this week’s event which runs Jan. 10 to 13.

“Absolutely,” said Kim Kirkham, event chair of the host organizing committee. “There are people that travel from all parts of Canada and North America to watch these teams compete.”

Kirkham said it is estimated the economic benefit from the World Financial Group Continental Cup is $4 to $5 million.

“We have 12 of the top teams from all over the world, representing six countries and they travel with coaches, sports trainers and family who are all staying in hotel rooms. Then we have all the curling fans coming who are staying in rooms, eating in restaurants and hopefully, the retail stores will be busier in town as well,” added Kirkham.

Tickets are still available for all the events and Kirkham said she expects there will be a lot of walk-up ticket sales. The event itself is still quite new to the curling community; Penticton is only the ninth Continental Cup ever held. It involves five different competitions including team play, mixed doubles, singles, mixed skins and skins. The teams include top curlers such as Heather Nedohin (2012 Scotties champion), Kevin Martin (2010 Olympics gold) and world champions. The winning teams receive $52,000, plus an additional $13,000 is up for grabs in the skins games. The Penticton Trade and Convention Centre is being transformed into the famous Patch that major curling events are known for. Music, contests, live coverage of the Continental Cup and opportunities to meet the athletes happen at the Patch.

It all plays into the sports tourism marketing the city has been pushing for to grow the economy on the shoulder season. Using sporting events like the Continental Cup is a way to promote the city as a tourist destination coupled with the national television exposure the city will get, as TSN has exclusive broadcasting rights to the event.

“It is a very important aspect to this event because it brings 30 hours of live television that is Canada wide over the four days of the event,” said Warren Hansen, director of event operations for the Continental Cup. “That is a huge benefit to the community as far as exposing it, particularly for a community like Penticton that derives a lot of its economic drive from tourism. When they go into the telecast they will have shots from around the area and it is very obvious to whoever it is watching it is coming to them from Penticton.”

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