By Ron Rauch – Times

The fifth instalment of

Victoria’s premier curling event is undergoing

massive changes.

The Bear Mountain Arena Curling Classic is on the move to the Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt and it will now be known as the Victoria Curling Classic. The dates for the Classic are March 25

to 28.

Among the other changes are a fans’ lounge in the adjoining Esquimalt Curling Club, five women’s teams and more prize money.

“We moved from Bear Mountain because for our event to grow, we needed to have the social aspect and the Archie Browning complex gives us everything,’’ said event chairman and ice technician Al Sutherland. “We will convert the curling rink into a fans’ lounge and it will have catered food and nightly entertainment. We have booked the Timebenders for one of the nights.

“There are 1,200 seats in Archie Browning and the atmosphere will be great if we can fill the stands. We are trying to make this event friendly for the fans and the curlers.’’

Total prize money has been increased to $99,000 — $84,000 for the 20 men’s teams and $15,000 for the women. The men’s winner receives $25,000 and the women’s champion will cash a cheque for $6,000. Also, all the teams that don’t qualify for the playoffs will be getting $200 for each win.

Four of the five women’s teams — Jennifer Jones from Winnipeg, Calgary’s Shannon Kleibrink and Cheryl Bernard and Saskatoon’s Stefanie Lawton — have confirmed their entries into the event. All four of those teams will be playing in the Olympic Trials in Edmonton in December. Jones is the defending Scotties Tournament of Hearts champion, defeating Marla Mallett from B.C. in last year’s final at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. Bernard and Lawton were also at the Scotties in Victoria. Kleibrink won the bronze medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy. The fifth team will be announced at a later date.

The women will play a round robin and the top three will advance to the playoffs. The No. 1-seeded team will receive a bye in the final, which will be played at the same time as the men.

Sutherland has again assembled an impressive men’s field with the likes of Glenn Howard from Ontario, Kevin Martin, Kevin Koe and Randy

Ferbey, all from Edmonton. Those teams have also secured spots in the Olympic Trials.

Some of the other rinks also coming to Victoria are Jeff Stoughton (a former winner), Mike McEwen and Kerry Burtnyk, all from Manitoba, defending champion Wayne Middaugh from Ontario, Saskatchewan’s Joel Jordison and Pat Simmons, two-time champion Bob Ursel from Kelowna and John Shuster from the United States.

EXTRA ENDS: Eight men’s teams will qualify for the playoffs . . . Tickets go on sale Oct. 15 at the Victoria Curling Club (250-386-6396) and the cost is $90 for any seat. The price will increase to $100 after Christmas . . . The draws for the first two days (Thursday and Friday) are at 9 a.m., 12:30, 4 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday’s times are

9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 4:15 p.m. (tiebreaker, if necessary) and 7:30 p.m. (quarter-finals). The semifinals are set for 10 a.m. Sunday,

followed by the finals at

2 p.m.

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