This has gotten serious.
Brad Gushue wants the Brier in St. John's. The city wants it, too.
Now the question is: Do you want the Brier in St. John's? Will you put your money where your mouth is?
That's the next step for Gushue and his Brier campaign compatriots, those who are aiming to bring the championship back to Newfoundland and Labrador for the first time since 1972.
Officially launching a 2017 Brier bid today, Gushue's group is asking curling fans to plunk down a $50.00 deposit, hoping to gather big numbers to show both the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) and political officials at all levels that there is big time interest in having the Brier on The Rock.
The bid has its own website, where the curious can find out more about it and - maybe most importantly for the group - reserve their seats for an event that may or may not come to pass. Obviously, a large number of deposits would help the bid gain traction with the CCA.
“We haven’t been told that we need ‘this amount’ to secure the bid," said Gushue, over the phone, shortly after the official launch. "We just want to do this to strengthen our bid. Because we are a smaller venue and probably be going against some larger venues we want to show that we’re going to have the interest.
From a social standpoint, this has always seemed like an easy decision.
A Brier in St. John's? Well, of course. No brain power need be wasted in noodling that aspect of it. St. John's would be a wonderful host. Anyone who has spent any amount of time there - or anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador for that matter - knows that.
But, the CCA got stung in 2014, when Kamloops, B.C., hosted the Brier. Ticket sales slumped badly. Gushue would like to get ahead of the feeling that the same thing could happen in St. John's.
“I know when they went to a smaller venue last year, it’s fair to say that the CCA was probably a little disappointed in the ticket sales," Gushue told me. "We want to make sure that they don’t have the same thing happen. I imagine, from the CCA’s perspective, they don’t want that to happen either. If we can show that we have a large number of event passes sold two years in advance, I think it would really show the strength in our bid and that we will have a successful Brier.”
Gushue and his group wil keep the ticket drive going until the end of March. They plan to make a formal presentation to the CCA in April.
I'd first talked with Gushue about his Brier aspirations nearly two years ago, when I wrote this column about the initiative. He'd tweeted out a message about building a groundswell. He got it and continued working behnd the scenes, and when we chatted about it again, this past December, he was excited about how far along the project had come. (You can read about that by clicking here and scrolling down)
The official launch of the bid comes at an interesting time in Newfoundland and Labrador curling.
This year's provincial championship, to be held this weekend in Labrador City, is shrouded in controversy, what with only two teams - Gushue's and a local team skipped by Gary Wensman - taking part.
Gushue has been critical of the Newfoundland and Labrador Curling Association over its decision to hold the championship in the remote mining town. Many teams decided not to take part due to the financial costs associated with making the trip. Gushue says there'll be no problem between he and the provincial curling association when it comes to the Brier bid.
“As far as working with them, they want the Brier just like I do. There’s going to be no issues there whatsoever."
Gushue added - with a laugh - that the provincial curling association has been used to hearing him "gripe" about championship locations "for the better part of 10 or 15 years."
"We both have the same goals as far as the provincials and how we change that," he said.
“It’s nothing against the community or the club," he said of Labrador City. "It’s just we’re not getting any of the teams to go up. Your second, third and probably fourth best teams in the province aren’t competing in provincials because they can’t afford it. I believe they (the Newfoundland and Labrador Curling Association) feel it’s an issue too."
"How we address it going forward, I’m not sure," he said.