We’re Hosting…the World Women’s Curling Championship?

Sydney, a “resilient and proud community with a history of hosting major curling events” will host the 2024 World Women’s Curling Championships (WWCC).

I have bones to pick with that sentence (which opened a Curling Canada press release I received on Friday). First, Sydney hosted the 2019 Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the 1955 Canadian Junior Men’s Championship. I’m not sure two events, 64 years apart, constitute a “history” of hosting, but okay, I guess. Second, while I know Cape Breton Regional Municipality is a mouthful and that “Sydney” and “Cape Breton” roll much more easily off the tongue, it is actually the CBRM that will be hosting (as in, helping to pay for) this tournament.

And third, I didn’t know CBRM had applied to host the 2024 WWCC. I don’t recall any discussion of such a bid by council and I can’t find any reference to it in the online council minutes.

I knew the CBRM had applied to host the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier (which went to London, Ontario) because I covered it—the vote took place during council’s regular monthly meeting in August 2021, after Mayor Amanda McDougall cleared spectators, camera operators and media from the room for a brief, in camera session. Council came back into public to listen to an even briefer presentation by Recreation manager Kurt Durning, then voted (without any discussion of the matter) to approve the bid.

Clearly, though, a bid on the 2024 WWCC was made because it was accepted—and Curling Canada’s director of communications and media relations, Al Cameron, told me by email it was “outstanding,” although he wouldn’t tell me anything else.

So I asked Centre 200 manager Paul MacDonald, billed in Curling Canada’s press release as the “vice-chair” of the Sydney Host Committee, what was up. As of press time, I had not received an answer. I would write the chair of the Sydney Host Committee but the press release didn’t mention one.

But then I asked CBRM spokesperson Christina Lamey and I have just now (it’s Wednesday noon) received her response:

As you know, the Brier bid was not successful. Staff proceeded with this bid for Women’s Worlds. It was a lower bid guarantee. So it was initiated within the parameters of the Municipality’s effort to secure a major sport event.

I find that “parameter” a tad loose. Council approved a $750,000 bid for a specific event, but Staff can bid on any other event with a similar (or lower) guaranteed bid?

Communities hosting Curling Canada events end up paying more than these “minimum” bids, which they are expected to top up, whether with extra cash or “gifts in kind” and “budget relief items.” (Lethbridge, Alberta, for example, won the right to host the 2022 Tim Hortons Brier with a bid worth $1 million.)

The minimum hosting fee for the WWCC is $400,000 cash and/or value in kind (VIK) and I thought it would be interesting to look at what hosting the 2022 WWCC cost Prince George, British Columbia.



Prince George, BC (population 76,708) had actually won the right to host the 2020 WWCC but, as the city’s recreation director explained in a 27 June 2022 report to council:

The 2020 World Women’s Curling Championship was scheduled for March 2020, but the pandemic forced the event’s cancellation one day before the event’s opening banquet was scheduled. It was a devastating blow for organizers, Curling Canada staff, City staff, volunteers, and the competitors. Despite the tremendous emotional, financial and other hardships caused by this cancellation, and two years of uncertainty due to the COVID pandemic, the City of Prince George successfully hosted the 2022 Women’s World Curling Championship, with reviews from the organizers, participants, fans and partners all indicating an extremely successful event despite the continuing challenges.

Elsewhere, the recreation director cites the “lengthy angst, stress, worry, time, hurdles and sacrifice” (sounds like fun!) endured by the event’s volunteers, corporate sponsors, contractors and fans, all of which was apparently worth it because the event returned a “positive financial outcome” for Curling Canada and helped Prince George build “the staff, volunteer and hospitality capacity to host larger national or international sporting events.”

Swiss win 2022 WWCC

Source: Curling Canada “Season of Champions 2022-2023 Fact Book

Under “financial considerations,” the report explained that:

Council approved a $300,000 grant from the Major Events Reserve Fund for the 2020 event. Due to the extreme last-minute nature of the cancellation/postponement and the fact that most of the major expenses had been incurred, we were unable to recoup this. However, Curling Canada indicated they would do everything they could to reschedule this event in Prince George. A new agreement was successfully negotiated for the 2022 event, which saw the City of Prince George agreeing to no cash contributions, but up to $200,000 of in-kind venue costs (CN Centre and Kin 1) supported from the Major Events Reserve Fund. Additionally, as per the agreement the City was successful in applying for a $250,000 grant from the BC Fairs, Festivals & Events Recovery Fund, which flowed through to Curling Canada, and supported the event’s indigenous involvement, marketing/communications, and volunteer expenses.

Prince George also received another $100,000 in provincial funding, plus $249,000 from the federal government, so hosting the event cost it $799,000—and if you include the $300,000 the city wrote off in 2020 (and I think you have to), the total is $1,099,000. (You would think that would be enough to get the event called “The People’s WWCC” but no, the event was billed, for sponsorship reasons, as the BKT Tires & OK Tire World Women’s Curling Championship.)

The recreation director’s report included audited internal figures from Curling Canada which show the event generated $933,399 in “earned revenue,” including $551,074 in ticket sales. So if you take the total Prince George spent to host the event (including the initial $300,000), the city spent $165,601 more than the event actually took in:

Prince George, BC, WWCC budget


As for expenditures, they clocked in at $1,423,241, meaning Curling Canada made a profit of $309,158 on the event. The breakdown of expenses looked like this:

Prince George, BC 2022 WWCC expenditures

Prince George, BC 2022 WWCC expenditures


Curling Canada, a non-profit whose goal is “To have Curling be the #1 sport of choice in Canada,” is sitting on an accumulated surplus of $11,028,096, according to its latest financial statement,


Northern Exposure

The return to the municipality for hosting an event like this is increased tourism and television exposure and, as mentioned above, practice hosting an international sporting event.

Prince George reported that the nine-day event had been attended by 34,773 people, 35% to 40% of whom were from “outside of Prince George.” That works out to between 12,000 and 13,000 visitors, but whether they were in need of food and accommodations or returned home at night was not explored in the report.

Nor did the recreation director take a stab at estimating tourist spending, citing, instead, Stats Canada figures for the “average Canadian Traveler” ($330 per overnight stay, $178 per day visit) and reporting that “several hotels” reported “blocks of rooms dedicated to out of town guests and participants.” (I’m not sure whose rooms would be paid for as part of the event budget, but the value of such rooms, as you can see above, was $72,177.)

Other benefits reaped by Prince George included $47,000 in 50/50 funds donated to the local Curling Club; locals trained to “judge and time a world championship curling event” and locals trained to “make and sustain world-class curling ice.”

None of these is a bad thing, but does it all add up to a reasonable pay-off for the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in public money? Especially by a municipality that was just hit by a hurricane and is struggling to clean up? This had clearly occurred to Curling Canada which included this encouraging word from its CEO in its press release:

“Sydney has been through some hard times over the past month recovering from tropical storm Fiona, but we know from our experience there in 2019 that this is a strong community that gets things done,” said Katherine Henderson, Chief Executive Officer of Curling Canada.

We’ll get those errant trees under control, put everyone’s roofs back on, repair the sidewalks then pull out the World Curling Federation’s handy, 131-page manual for communities hosting championships and get to organizing! Starting by appointing an organizing committee:

Proposed Organizational Chart for the Organizing Committee, World Curling Federation

In other words, it’s is a big undertaking—and an expensive undertaking—and while I know curling fans will be thrilled at the opportunity to attend an international competition and volunteers, if the Scotties is any indication, will enjoy themselves, it’s fair to ask if the pay-off is worth it.

If nothing else, it’s fair to ask the terms of the CBRM’s bid, and I did. But as of press time, no one had responded.