Provincial championship host committee prepares to welcome curling’s finest


By Mark T. Buss

The local organizing committee for the 2011 Safeway Men’s Curling Championships believe they’ve hit the broom in preparation for this week’s event in Beausejour.

Event co-chair John Plohman – sharing duties with his brother Gary – said the meetings, number crunching and heavy lifting has been done. What’s left is to put the well constructed plan into action and welcome Manitoba’s curling royalty to the Sun Gro Centre Feb. 9 to 13.

“Beausejour is getting an excellent reputation for hosting large events like this and no doubt this latest effort will bolster that view,” Plohman said. “When you get a good team with a common goal sometimes it is surprising how much can get done. This community has the spirit to be successful and what’s been done shows that.”

Plohman said the man-hours put into this event are virtually immeasurable. With initial work beginning while the 2010 Safeway championships were still in Steinbach last January, Plohman said serious meetings from March to June resulted in the formation of 15 subcommittees for everything from facilities, accommodations and registration to media, admissions, ceremonies and entertainment.

“If you were to count the amount of hours put into this it would be into the thousands,” Plohman said.

The largest physical transformation involved turning the Sun Gro Centre’s skating ice surface into a world class five-sheet curling facility in just four days.

Facilities chairs Jarrett Powers and Duane Versluis had their crews hard at work Thursday night around 9 p.m. – after the last scheduled hockey practice – taking down all 140 sheets of Plexiglas and raising up the safety netting.

By noon on Friday, the crew set up the additional bleachers and scaffolding supplied by Nelson Industries of Oakbank virtually doubling the seating capacity at the Sun Gro to around 1,500. The host committee anticipates 10,000 to 15,000 spectators over the course of the five-day event resulting in huge economic spin-offs for local businesses.

World class ice makers Hans Wuthrich and former Beausejour Curling Club ice maker Greg Ewasko then began to work their magic. Working in shifts all weekend, 24 hours a day until the job was complete Monday, the duo along with the cooperation of the Sun Gro staff used between 6,000 to 6,500 gallons of water to build a pebbled one-inch lift on the skating surface.

With the ice retrofit, VIP seating, media requirements, electronic and Internet access taken into account, Plohman said the rink transformation came in at a cost of around $30,000.

Powers said with Beausejour being looked at as the host, Ewasko came out to check over the Sun Gro ice plant a year ago and made recommendations.

“One thing that has not been mentioned in this is the investment in the Sun Gro ice plant to the tune of about $450,000,” Powers said. “The plant has been upgraded, there are double compressors and a lot more firepower from when it first opened. Without that investment something like this doesn’t happen.”

An event like this also doesn’t happen without the help of volunteers. When the call for support went out, more than 250 souls stepped forward.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” Powers said.

One thing the host committee won’t have to worry about is the quality of on-ice equipment. Curling Manitoba supplies everything from clocks, carpets and dividers to the curling rocks – which will slide from Beausejour to the Tim Horton’s Brier March 5-13 in London, Ont.

The Safeway championships will also be broadcast live on Shaw TV, the first time a Beausejour-hosted event will be on television since ABC’s Wide World of Sports covered the CPTC snowmobile races in the 1970s, which drew over 25,000 spectators.

Opening ceremonies are scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 9 at 7:15 p.m. with daily draws at 8:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 4 p.m. and 7:45 p.m., on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Draws 13 and 14 will take place Saturday, Feb. 12 at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. respectively with the first round of playoffs starting at 6:30 p.m.

Semi-finals will be held Sunday, Feb. 13, 9 a.m. with the championship game held at 1:30 p.m. immediately followed by the closing ceremony.

For more information on the Championships, the draw and other activities, visit their web site at

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