Stettler’s Scotties tournament set a new standard

Chair of curling tournament committee says rural Alberta can host biggest events

The Stettler community is looking back fondly at the 2019 Jiffy Lube Alberta Scotties Tournament of Hearts as not only a home run of events, but a blueprint for other Alberta communities to use for hosting such events.

Stettler Curling Club president Steve Gerlitz, also chair of the Jiffy Lube Scotties 2019 tournament that was hosted by Stettler Jan. 22 to 27 said there was only one word he would use to describe the event.

“Fantastic,” said Gerlitz by phone Feb. 13. “For a small rural community…I feel we set the bar for future curling championships, both the men’s and the ladies.”

Gerlitz said the quality of curling over the six days was world-championship caliber and he’s heard lots of positive feedback around the community about the tournament.

The tournament, which ran six days, included 12 teams that each had four to six people or more, including spares and coaches. The Scotties attracted thousands of spectators to watch the world-class curling: there were about 550 to 650 spectators per draw for nine draws over the week. Gerlitz estimated spectators numbered about 7,000 for the event.

The event was supported by about 250 volunteers, plus the directors committee of 14 people. Gerlitz said all sorts of Stettler-region people came forward to help, both young and old, curling fans and people who’ve never put a foot in the hack.

The Town of Stettler made a community donation of $20,000 to the event, while the County of Stettler made a community donation of $10,000. With rent for the SRC and the community hall adding up to about $26,000, Gerlitz said those two donations covered the rentals nicely.

Overall, Gerlitz said the committee raised $147,000 including $25,000 in donations-in-kind, and while some bills for the event are still rolling in, he says the budget looks very good.

Gerlitz said the many months of planning put into such a major Alberta sports event were worth it. He said for people who spent so much time planning the Scotties, it was very rewarding to see the event go off well.

“I think that’s what it was,” he said, when asked what was most rewarding about the event. “I was kind of in awe. To see what it came out as, it was just fantastic.” He said volunteers, facility staff and everybody involved did their parts well.

The only thing that didn’t quite work out the way the committee wanted was some lighting effects planned for introductions and other events for the Scotties. Gerlitz said it didn’t quite look as great as expected, so the committee just pulled it and everything went well anyway, especially lighting for the opening ceremony. Gerlitz said the hoop dancer Dallas Arcand Jr. also did a tremendous job.

Gerlitz said the feeling in Stettler has always been that a smaller rural area is capable of doing events as well as large centers. He said this is the second provincials Stettler has hosted and 18 years later the community has done it again.

He said the Stettler community has developed a model throughout this process that proves small, rural communities can host an event like a large urban centre.

The local curling club also had the goal in mind of increasing exposure and excitement of the sport of curling to the community. Did the committee achieve their goals? “More than achieved them,” answered Gerlitz, noting the committee also made an assessment the tournament brought $400,000 to $500,000 in economic benefits to Stettler and area.

What’s even better is this means rural residents can expect to see such events in their community and don’t have to travel to large urban centers to attend them. Gerlitz said the committee hopes Curling Alberta embraces their template for hosting large events in rural communities.

Why devote so much blood, sweat and tears to a major event like the Jiffy Lube 2019 Scotties Tournament of Hearts?

“I think we did it because we love the game,” said Gerlitz. “We’re a community that says ‘We Can.’”

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