When you’re attending the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier between February 26 and March 7, remember to head over to the Big Four Building for fun and games in the “Brier Patch.” While you’re there, reminisce about a piece of Calgary’s curling history.

The Big Four Building used to hold the world record for the most curling sheets in one rink. When the Big Four Building opened in 1959, it had 24 curling sheets on the lower level during the winter months. It became so popular with curlers that the size was doubled in 1960, making the Big Four the world’s largest indoor curling rink with 48 sheets.

For many years in the early 20th century, Calgary curlers had been forced to play outside. Perpetually plagued by pesky, ice-melting Chinooks, Calgary curlers tried to persuade the Artificial Ice Rink Company to convert the Victoria Arena ice into a curling rink between hockey games. That idea didn’t take hold, but eventually the Stampede decided that in the winter months, they would turn the Victoria Pavilion horse barns into curling sheets. Victoria Pavilion was a huge success, both financially for the Stampede and for the curlers. It even helped encourage a campaign to bring the Macdonald Brier to Calgary in 1948. When hockey moved into the Corral after 1950, curling was expanded in the Victoria Arena to a total of 12 sheets.[1]

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Hockey legend and Stampede President Mervyn “Red” Dutton throws the first rock at the Stampede bonspiel, Victoria Arena, 1953.

By 1954, however, the Stampede’s agricultural activities were expanding year-round. They decided to double the size of livestock pavilion, which limited exhibition space and the space for curling. Fortunately, curling at the Victoria Arena had been extremely profitable, and paid for the down payment for a new building and curling rink: the Big Four Building. The Stampede was confident that the building would ultimately pay for itself, largely through curling rentals.[2]

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In the mid-60s, however, the popularity of the Big Four curling rink dipped slightly, and with good reason! The Big Four was still a “dry” facility—unusual for a classic bonspiel. Most other Calgary rinks had already obtained liquor licenses and syphoned business from the Big Four. In 1967, the Stampede rectified the problem by getting a liquor license, and in doing so won back many of its lost curlers.[3]

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The Big Four remained a curling rink until the lead up to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, at which time the ice was removed to accommodate a media centre.

On March 5, 2015, Mavericks Restaurant in the Big Four Building will be hosting “The Great Canadian Auction” with proceeds going to Canada-wide curling bursaries for children in need of financial support for sport. Find out more, here.

 

 

 

[1] James Gray, A Brand of Its Own: The 100 Year History of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede (Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1985), 123-124.

[2] Ibid., 160.

[3] Ibid., 143.