News

Downtown getting swept up in Scotties

By Karena Walter, The Standard

Ben Carlsen, left, and Andrew Briggs play the curling game available at Mahtay Cafe.Thursday February 16 2017. Several downtown businesses have gotten on the Bandwagon as the Scotties Tournament of Hearts curling begins this weekend in St. Catharines at the Meridian Centre. Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

Ben Carlsen, left, and Andrew Briggs play the curling game available at Mahtay Cafe.Thursday February 16 2017. Several downtown businesses have gotten on the Bandwagon as the Scotties Tournament of Hearts curling begins this weekend in St. Catharines at the Meridian Centre. Bob Tymczyszyn/St. Catharines Standard/Postmedia Network

Mahtay Cafe is ready to defend its house should any of the country’s best female curlers sweep into the establishment.

The St. Paul Street cafe has set up a counter-top curling game and has been nudging the 2016 Canadian women’s champions via Twitter to take staff on.

It’s fair to say the cafe, decked out in curling pendants and posters, is more than a tad excited about the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts taking place in the city Feb. 18-26.

“It’s big for St. Catharines. It’s a nationwide tournament and we’re excitable people I guess,” said owner Chris Lowes, whose cafe has been posting curling-related photos on Instagram and videos on Twitter.

“It’s good for the downtown. The hotels will be busy with people coming to town and people looking for places to eat and drink. For us, the social media thing is a way to get noticed.”

With the Scotties kicking off Saturday at Meridian Centre, downtown businesses are getting ready for what they hope will be big crowds.

Lowes said Mahtay isn’t known as a sporty place but he thinks visitors who have time between matches will walk around, explore the downtown and maybe recognize the cafe as the place “going nuts on social media.”

The St. Catharines Downtown Association distributed Scotties pendants, posters, tabletop information and balloons to local businesses who want to show support of the event.

“I think that just shows the community is involved and excited,” said Tisha Polocko, executive director of the St. Catharines Downtown Association.

Polocko said she’s expecting a large influx of people.

“The Scotties is a huge draw,” she said. “People come from all over the country, so definitely we feel we’ll see that influx of people milling about and utilizing our downtown.”

The time of year for the event is a bonus. Polocko said February is slower so more people downtown is a good boost.

Green Lotus Restaurant on St. Paul Street saw that boost in January 2016 when the under-18 women’s world hockey championship was held at Meridian Centre.

Co-owner Singha Chanthanatham said it was busy and he recalled one day that was almost overwhelming.

With the Scotties being the first high-profile curling tournament, he said he doesn’t know what to expect crowd-wise.

“It could honestly be very busy or steady,” he said. “I don’t expect it to be dead, I know that.”

The restaurant, across from the William Street pedestrian bridge to Meridian Centre, will be taking it day by day and have a server on call.

A few steps away, The Mansion House on William Street is extending its hours and beefing up its staff complement.

General manager Justin Cirillo said its location next to the Ontario Street parking garage brings in a lot of people before Niagara IceDogs games and it expects the same from the Scotties.

“We’re hoping that some of the athletes may even get a look and see what the Mansion House is all about,” Cirillo said.

The pub is opening up five hours early on Saturdays — at 11 a.m. — because of the Scotties and will be open on Family Day. He’s telling guests to make reservations if they want to ensure seats throughout the tournament.

FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre downtown is also getting caught up in the spectacle. The Film House on St. Paul Street is running a Family Day marathon of the Paul Gross movie Men with Brooms in celebration of the Scotties.

The 14A rated movie is free with a purchase at the concession stand and tickets aren’t required in advance. The film is showing at noon, 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Monday.

“We just thought it would be a fun way to help celebrate all the ‘Women with Brooms’ at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts,” said performing arts centre spokeswoman Sara Palmieri.

“We thought it would be a fantastic way to open our doors to the community, and to the visiting athletes and patrons of the tournament, to come and have a look at the PAC and have a laugh at The Film House.”

kwalter@postmedia.com