The Ontario Curling Association runs more competitions than any other province.
As fantastic as that is for Ontario curlers with competitive fire, it's come at a cost. There was a loss of more than $200,000 in the running of competitions for the Ontario governing body last year.
That figure comes from association executive director Stephen Chenier. It has to change.
"We are in the curling development business," said Chenier, "Not just competitions business."
Over the past three years, it's been a half-million in losses and you can double that if it wasn't for sponsorships.
Part of the reason for the losses is due to the dropping numbers in entries. That comes especially in the high-profile Tankard and Hearts events. It used to be easier to cover costs (such as accommodation) simply due to the larger participation. It's time to put the cost of the competitions on to those competing, Chenier said.
"I think competitors have been coddled a little bit too long."
Men's Tankard entries numbered just 66 this year, a drop from 92. That's scary for an event that drew in more than 200 entries just over a dozen years ago.
Women's Tournament of Hearts entries dropped to 29 from 35 so far. There is a change in women's playdowns this year with two more qualifiers to come early in 2016.
The fees in those competitions rose slightly this season. Fees for seniors and juniors went up by a much larger amount and are now equal to the Tankard and Hearts entries at $360 per team.
In seniors, the men are only one team down (82 entries) and women are up seven teams (49) from the previous years. More senior competitors than in the mainstream events?
It actually makes sense. The goal for the younger teams is Olympics and there's a new influx of talent every four years. In seniors, you are looking at more teams made up of "amateur" curlers who are also more on the recreational side. Likely a better chance to have a hot weekend and make it through to a provincial.
Chenier doesn't believe the event cost is what is causing the drop in the Tankard. There's just too much talent for fringe teams to put in the time and effort.
"(Tankard) is the only event that dropped," Chenier said. "This isn't unique to Ontario. This is happening across the board."
How about dropping less known events in Ontario such as the two-team Silver Tankard and Women's Tankard?
"Believe it or not the two-team event makes money," Chenier said.
There is a competitions review underway and an event-by-event budget analysis has been part of that. Changes are coming in all events, specifically in how the playdowns work. It is hoped the numbers will bounce back in the main events. In the end, Chenier wants to make sure more OCA fees go to helping clubs deal with curling development.
Chenier points out that a registered golfer pays a qualifier entry fee for the Ontario amateur title, another small fee if the golfer makes provincials and then has to pay another full entry fee to participate in the nationals. The golfer has to pay all his own travel and accommodation costs throughout.
Golf Association of Ontario tournament director Larry Longo confirmed Chenier's statement. There is some subsidy for the top three golfers sent the Canadian Amateur Championship, said Longo, but that's it.
"I am a staunch believer that competitors should pay their own way," Chenier said.