Thunder Bay hospitality showcased to the nation

November 2021

In less than three months, the Fort William Gardens and Curling Club will be rockin’ as Thunder Bay finally gets to host one of the top nationally televised sports events in Canada, the Scotties January 28 to February 6 at Fort William Gardens and Fort William Curling Club.

Thunder Bay last hosted the Canadian Women’s Curling Championships back in 1996 with great success. Many people remember the big snow storm and the feisty Marilyn Bodough from St.Catherines winning the Canadian title as the home team representing Ontario. If waiting 25 years was not enough, the onset of Covid and the resulting one year delay has further heightened the anticipation of hosting this major national championship part of the 7.4 billion dollar sports tourism industry in Canada looking to rebound.

“We’re really happy the Community Economic Development Commission, city council, our three local curling clubs and Fort William Gardens came on board and said let’s do it,” said Rick Lang referring to Curling Canada’s offer to host in 2022 after the pandemic cancelled the 2021 event. Lang, the renowned local curler is part of local organizing committee that will engage 400 volunteers to run the event.

Curling Canada was quick to award the 2022 championship to Thunder Bay impressed by the advance tickets sales in early 2020 prior to the pandemic.

Another key consideration according to Nolan Thiessen, Executive Director for Marketing and Fan Experience at Curling Canada who was in the city earlier this fall for a site visit is the fact that Thunder Bay is known as a curling hotbed. “When we can take over the town it is really great for all the attendees, all the curlers. You go to a restaurant and people know you are here for the Scotties. I think it just adds to the atmosphere when you get the whole city behind it. So we are really excited to come here at end of January.”

The Gardens with a capacity for 3000 fans is expected to be a hub of activity with 27 draws including the recently announced Northern Ontario – Canada game on Sunday night (January 30) of the opening weekend. And if local hometown hero, Krista McCarville and her team of Kendra Lilly, Ashley Sippala an Sarah Potts is wearing green-and-gold, tickets will certainly be at a premium.

“The atmosphere in a smaller venue like this can be electric especially if it is full,” said Scott Higgins, the veteran producer for TSN (The Sports Network) who was here in late September for a site visit and is familiar with McCarville and her team’s success competing at past Scotties and recent qualifying events for the Olympics. TSN with a crew of 40 – 50 will be here to setup for the 80 hours of live broadcast that will showcase Thunder Bay to millions of Canadians watching for the broadcast that has national and international reach.

Higgins who has been producing curling broadcasts for TSN for 25 years was impressed with all the improvements and upgrades to Gardens especially the new video score clock installed at the 70-year old facility. He says it will not only enhance the television broadcasts but the fan experience in the arena.

“The event comes at an opportune time for the local hospitality sector hotels and restaurants hit hard by restrictions caused by the pandemic over the past year and a half,” said Paul Pepe, the manager of Tourism Thunder Bay. The economic impact is estimated at 7 - 8 million dollars based on the spending of 5000 visitors expected over the 15 days of the event. This includes a projection of 12,000 room nights taking up most of the 3000 rooms at local hotels and motels. The numbers are based on economic assessments from previous events held in Moose Jaw, Sydney and Penticton.

Proof of full vaccination will be required for all attending. Volunteers are still needed for those interested.

For more information on tickets and volunteer opportunities visit the Curling Canada website at

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