International curling event slides into Penticton

Kim Kirkham envisioned bringing a large curling tournament to Penticton, but she had no idea what was coming.

Warren Hansen of the Canadian Curling Association along with Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton (right) begin sweeping Kim Kirkham’s rock after it was announced that Penticton will host the 2013 Continental Cup.

Warren Hansen of the Canadian Curling Association along with Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton (right) begin sweeping Kim Kirkham’s rock after it was announced that Penticton will host the 2013 Continental Cup.

Kim Kirkham envisioned bringing a large curling tournament to Penticton, but she had no idea what was coming.

Kirkham, a past-president of the Penticton Curling Club, approached the Canadian Curling Association about hosting a national event. Instead, Penticton is getting something on a larger scale — the 2013 World Financial Group Continental Cup — an international championship started in 2003.

“It’s a big event,” said Kirkham, who is the host committee chair of the event scheduled for Jan. 10 to 13 at the South Okanagan Events Centre. “Cream of the crop. We’re very fortunate. We thought maybe the Scotties. We don’t think the venue here is big enough for the Brier, but it could definitely host a Scotties.”

When Kirkham learned what Penticton landed, she was filled with “huge” excitement.

“This is really, really big,” she said. “Six best teams from North America and six best from the world. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Warren Hansen, director of event operations and media relations for the CCA, made the announcement in the Vault at the SOEC Friday afternoon and pushed the slogan used for season of champion events, You Gotta Be There, which has been credited with increasing enthusiasm.

“The Continental Cup is a relatively new event to the sport of curling,” said Hansen, who threw second stones for Hec Gervais and won the 1974 Brier. “One that is quickly gaining a solid reputation. The Contintental Cup annually involves the 12 best teams in the world. There are five different competitions: team play, mixed doubles, singles, mixed skins and skins.”

Scott Braley, chief executive officer and executive director of Curl B.C., said he’s pleased for Penticton. Kirkham mentioned to him a couple years ago about Penticton’s desire to go beyond hosting provincials to bring national events. Braley thanked and congratulated members of the host committee and the Penticton Curling Club as well as the World Curling Federation and the CCA.

“Penticton has a track record of hosting successful curling events,” said Braley, noting the 2008 B.C. men’s championship and in 2010 the B.C. Scotties women’s championship.

Hansen said one of the main things that helped Penticton get the Continental Cup is that the CCA hasn’t done an event in Penticton.

“This great new facility, I think the Okanagan Valley is a pretty strong curling area,” he said. “We have had successful events in Kelowna and Vernon. It was time for us to do one here.”

Kirkham said that curling fans will be spoiled with the calibre.

“Normally you would have to go to the Lower Mainland, for instance Langley is hosting 2012,” she said. “It will be nice to see just how many curling fans are actually in the Okanagan. I think we will get the support throughout the Okanagan north and south.”

And she believes it will attract attention from those that watch at home.

“In conjunction with our event partners from both the United States Curling Association and the World Curling Federation, it is certainly a great opportunity to host the Continental Cup in the beautiful City of Penticton,” said chief executive officer of the Canadian Curling Association Greg Stremlaw. “Our site visits during the event review process clearly established that both the community and South Okanagan Events Centre are world class and we look forward to sharing the highly entertaining World Financial Group Continental Cup with the fans in the host community and all of southern British Columbia.”

The 2013 World Financial Group Continental Cup will celebrate its ninth edition in Penticton. It will also be the third time B.C. has hosted the cup, following Chilliwack in 2006, while Langley will stage the 2012 renewal in January. Since it began in 2002 in Regina, North America holds a 4-3 edge over Team World. There were no cups held during the 2005-06 and 2009-10 seasons.

To help the Continental Cup succeed, the City of Penticton is giving a grant of $38,500 to the host committee with 50 per cent of that amount being returned to the city.