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Continental Cup of curling returns to open arms of Las Vegas

When Las Vegas was first proposed as a host site for the 2014 World Financial Group Continental Cup of curling, many laughed and shook their heads.

The tournament — or bonspiel, as they say in curling — in Sin City ended up being a smashing success.

Curling fans around the world and locals interested in the sport packed Orleans Arena for a record-setting attendance of 51,215 over four days, which was 10,000 more than the previous record and fell 500 shy of the American feat for any curling event.

The 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup returns to Orleans Arena starting today for a four-day bonspiel.

“No one questions Vegas anymore,” said Jon Killoran, the chief executive officer for the Reno Tahoe Winter Games Coalition. “Now it’s, ‘Vegas? Cool!’ “

Men’s and women’s teams from Canada and the United States will join forces for Team North America and take on Team World, which features Sweden, Norway, China, Scotland, Switzerland, Japan and Germany.

The men’s American team consists of John Shuster, Tyler George, John Landsteiner and Matt Hamilton. The U.S. women’s side is represented by Erika Brown, Allison Pottinger, Nicole Joraanstad and Natalie Nicholson. Shuster, Landsteiner and Brown competed in Las Vegas in 2014.

Canada’s Jennifer Jones, Kaitlyn Lawes, Jill Officer and Dawn McEwen are the defending gold medalists from the 2014 Sochi Games. They’re the only team ever to go undefeated in Olympic play.

The 2014 cup was the first played outside Canada in the 12 years of the event. That opened the doors for more curling in Las Vegas. The 2018 World Men’s Curling Championship will be at Orleans Arena.

“Las Vegas was the perfect place to host the event,” Killoran said. “A lot of folks came to town to set attendance records. Vegas brings people from Canada and around the United States.”

Before the first rock is thrown on the ice today, this year’s curling cup has already surpassed last year’s attendance record. As of Monday, the event had sold more than 62,000 advance tickets, according to Killoran.

Las Vegas definitely entices more curling fans to attend the event, but Killoran also credits NBC Sports Network’s “Curling Night in America” for promoting the event. Promos for the 2016 World Financial Group Continental Cup aired on Friday nights during the televised curling draws last January and February.

NBC Sports Network brought back “Curling Night in America” this year, airing every Friday night until Feb. 26.

The curling cup at The Orleans will be streamed on ESPN3.com, and for those watching in Canada, it will be televised on TSN.

“Curling continues to grow,” Killoran said. “You’re seeing curling clubs in Las Vegas, Los Angeles. It’s not just in the Midwest anymore.”

— Contact Gilbert Manzano at gmanzano@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0492. Follow him on Twitter: @gmanzano24.

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