Roar of the Rings curling tournament leads to a rocking week for Ottawa businesses


It turns out Rachel Homan and her teammates weren’t the only big local winners at the Roar of the Rings Olympic curling trials.

Many Ottawa businesses enjoyed a banner tournament as well, with hotels and restaurants near the host Canadian Tire Centre filled to capacity during the nine-day event.

“It was pretty great for us,” said Courtney Groenewoed, sales manager at a pair of Marriott-branded Kanata hotels – the 116-room TownePlace Suites and the 98-room Fairfield Inn & Suites – and a recreational curler herself.

She said both properties were virtually sold out for the entire event, which ran from Dec. 2-10 and determined the Canadian men’s and women’s curling representatives for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

In Sunday’s finals, Ms. Homan’s hometown rink from the Ottawa Curling Club topped Calgary’s Chelsea Carey to earn the women’s berth, while Kevin Koe and his Calgary-based team won the men’s side with a thrilling last-shot victory over Mike McEwen’s foursome from Winnipeg.

“We had people who started booking over a year ago,” Ms. Groenewoed said, adding they had guests from as far away as Newfoundland and the Prairies. “As soon as it was announced, everybody was calling in from out of town. Generally speaking, in December, it’s really quiet. This was amazing for us to be able to fill as (many rooms) as we did.”

A few kilometres away at the Brookstreet Hotel, which hosted most of the 18 teams in the competition as well as the out-of-town media who covered the event, marketing manager Sharon Ravnas also had a lot to cheer about.

All 276 rooms at the venue were booked solid, a rarity for the first couple of weeks of December.

“This time of year in an average sort of December for us, we sell out a few nights of the month or the last week, but not every night for 10 days,” Ms. Ravnas said. “So we got a lot more sales than we normally do. We had a few (fans), but I think most of the other (hotels in) Kanata benefited from the fans more than us, because we couldn’t really take anyone else.”

Nearly 7,500 people watched Ms. Homan battle Ms. Carey in Sunday afternoon’s final, and overall the event drew a total of 106,807 spectators. While that’s dwarfed by the record tally of more than 175,000 fans who attended the 2009 Olympic trials in Edmonton, organizers said Ottawa’s numbers more than met their expectations.

“We’ve had some great crowds here,” said Elaine Brimicombe, vice-chair of the host committee. “We’re happy with the overall attendance.”

She said she’d have to wait for the post-tournament economic analysis before knowing how many spectators were from out of town, but anecdotally noted she talked to fans from Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States who travelled to Canada’s capital to witness the competition.

“I think it shows that Ottawa is a city to be reckoned with when it comes to bringing in events,” Ms. Brimicombe said. “We had our event towards the end of a very busy year (for tourism in Ottawa), and it’s popular and it’s successful. I think that’s great.”

Visitors' views

Some well-travelled curling aficionados who spoke to OBJ agreed.

“It’s awesome,” said Brent Kizlyk, a Saskatchewan native who now lives on the Alberta side of the border city of Lloydminster and sported a green and white Roughriders sweater and hat to Sunday afternoon’s final.

Mr. Kizlyk and his wife Melanie arrived for their first visit to Ottawa on Dec. 1. They took time out from watching the action at the CTC to check out attractions such as the Parliament Buildings, the Canadian War Museum and the “Christmas Lights Across Canada” display and said they’d definitely consider a return trip to the capital, which Ms. Kizlyk called “friendly” and “walkable.”

Barb McDonald of Calgary, who showed her provincial pride by hoisting a large Alberta flag throughout Sunday’s Homan-Carey matchup, also raved about her visit. She named the downtown Christmas lights and the new public skating rink on Parliament Hill as highlights of her five-day stay.

“It’s a beautiful city,” she said.

Die-hard curling fans who’ve attended major events throughout the west, the Kizlyks said their only complaints were the infrequent bus service to and from their downtown hotel and the need to take a shuttle to the “Patch,” the tournament’s designated entertainment area that was located about one and a half kilometres down the road from the arena at the Bell Sensplex.  

At many major curling events, the Patch is located in the host building itself or right next door, as was the case when Ottawa hosted the Brier at TD Place in 2016. Ms. Brimicombe acknowledged there were a few grumbles from fans about having to hop a bus to enjoy beverages at the Sensplex, but she said it just wasn’t feasible to put the Patch in the CTC itself.

“You have to look at room size and the logistics of it all,” she said. “In this case, there wasn’t a room large enough in the building to host the Patch inside here. And to do a tent, it just wasn’t a workable option."