Fort to host provincial ladies’ playdowns

Just when the Fort Frances Curling Club thought it could relax after hosting the Northwestern Ontario ladies’ playdowns last week, it now must start preparing for yet another big event.
And this one is considerably larger.
Next year at around this time, the Ontario Scott Tournament of Hearts will grace the ice at the local curling club—and the club is more than looking forward to the challenge.
“We know it’s a big affair. It’s a week-long affair and we know there will be lots of followers,” said Rob Sinclair, an executive member of the Northwestern Ontario Curling Association and was one of the key people involved in bringing this prestigious event to Fort Frances.
“I’d say it’s the second-biggest event as far as curling goes in the province, and people will be seeing ladies’ curling at its best,” Sinclair added.
A few people have known about the provincials coming to Fort Frances for about two months now, but they didn’t want to take the spotlight away from the Northwestern playdowns.
Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean they kept it to themselves.
“For the most part, it’s been eating me up inside,” said Tom Fry, who was the chairman for the Northwestern Ontario playdowns and also will be a key member of the Ontario Scott organizing committee.
“But one thing is that if you had visited our washroom at the curling club, then you would have seen it because we did announce to the members because we are looking for a committee.
“If the members can read posters around here, then they all know that we were getting it next year, so it wasn’t really bugging me that much,” Fry noted. “But Rob didn’t want to release it to the press at that point.”
And after successfully staging the Northwesterns last week, Fry saw no reason why the club can’t do the same with the provincial showdown.
“We have great membership here. All you have to do is ask and they’re ready to pitch in so there is no problem with volunteers,” said Fry.
“We’ll make it happen, and it’ll happen in a big way,” he pledged.
Fort Frances has been losing its place on the curling map the last little while, but an event of this magnitude surely will put the spotlight back on the town. So it’s essential the club stages a successful event to try and attract other major bonspiels down the road.
“On the curling side of the map at this point is crucial because since the mid-’90s we’ve kind of lost our position on the map,” said Fry. “We used to have major cash ’spiels here where we drew the tops teams from across Canada and that’s gone now.
“And the last time we had a provincial playdown was in ’97 with the men’s, so things have kind of fallen off, so this will definitely put is back on the curling map,” he added.
One challenge facing the local club is providing better viewing for the large number of spectators expected here. Since one sheet of ice will be vacant (it will be a 10-team field), there has been discussion about adding bleachers.
“We’re just hoping that we’re going to have enough room to accommodate everybody,” said Sinclair.
Volunteers also will be needed, as well as help from local businesses.
“We did have a limited budget for [the Northwestern playdowns], and we didn’t want to hit the businesses too hard this year because we know we’re going to be looking for more this year,” said Fry.
A schedule has been set up with the Ontario curling associations for hosting the provincial playdowns and it was the northwest’s turn to do so. And since Fort Frances had never hosted it before, it essentially was a lock that the club would get it.
Though the Ontario Scott won’t be held until next year, the club will be looking to put together a committee before the summer and it will be going “full blast” once September rolls around.
As previously noted, Fort Frances has been home to the men’s provincials and also the police nationals, so the club is fully capable of putting on a smooth-running and successful event.
“It’s not all new to us, it’s just a matter of trying to remember it,” said Fry. “We’re definitely up for the challenge, and it will definitely be a big event for Fort Frances.”