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Half a million dollar pot has community excited


The fervor that gripped The Pas in 2016 when the Royal Canadian Legion’s Chase the Ace (CTA) fundraiser reached over $200,000 has been surpassed.
Not just in terms of what is in the pot; no, that was bested months ago. Rather, the desire to be a part of the action has reached and breached those heights witnessed just 17 months ago when in late August, 2016, a prize of over $200,000 was won in exciting fashion in the middle of the Roy H. Johnston Arena by Mitch Titterton, his hands raised to the sky, carried away by excited family and friends. At that time, blessed with a warm summer sun, those lining up to get in on the action spent a day outside -including more than one person who camped out overnight- just to get into the arena. Cast in the shadow of the announcement Tolko would be closing their doors, hundreds of people -thousands if you count those who weren’t there but had worked out a deal to have someone in attendance purchase tickets for them- were seeking a significant financial influx, possibly to find a fix to looming concerns from that potential mill shutdown.
Skip to the present and while the backdrop isn’t the same -there’s no arena, summer has given way to winter and the new owners of the mill are investing- the same desire to be in on the action persists. The arena has been replaced by socials, which are now often sold out as quickly as the tickets are made available. This past weekend the pot grew by an eye-popping $41,000 and for the first time ever passed the half-a-million dollar mark. Those who are lucky enough to get into the Legion will have a chance at $502,390.
The benefits of CTA won’t solely fall at the feet of the Legion and whoever finally takes home the grand prize. Even if you don’t draw the ace of hearts you pull in a consolation prize. That prize, just like the big pot, has been growing each week and on Saturday Marty Moore failed to find the ace but still took home a consolation amount of $12,432.
The biggest benefit though may be what CTA is doing for local user groups. Various non-profit organizations have been volunteering to sell tickets and other duties for CTA, efforts which see them take home a chunk of the pie at the end of the night. For groups that are too frequently used to seeing a few hundred dollars for a day’s work, they are now taking home thousands between 5:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. every Saturday night. This past Saturday was the Clearwater Lake Social Club and they carted out a cheque worth $8,288. In total, CTA has cleared $100,000 for local groups, money that will fund a host of local efforts to enhance The Pas and area.
There are challenges though too, including what comes about with any big amount of money; rumours, gossip and complaints as people vie for an edge.
“Rumours are a challenge, rumours and accommodating to so many people. It’s cold out, people aren’t as happy to stand out waiting to getting. It was a little different at the arena,” said Jodie Kuhl, one of the organizers for CTA.
There had been discussion about holding CTA at multiple venues, but in the end the logistic of doing so has had the Legion electing to keep it to one single location. With the ice still in the arena it will be kept to the confines of the Legion for the next several weeks at least, though there is the potential if the ace lasts until the very end the event could be back at the Roy H. Johnston Arena.
“If it goes down that far they’ve pretty much said already we can have the arena,” said Kuhl.
That could double the number of people in attendance to win, going from the Legions capacity of just under 500 people to 1,000 that the arena can hold.
And unlike 2016, there won’t be a runoff of the final 10 cards. No, this year they will go down to the final two cards if the ace lasts that long.
“The only reason why we did that was because the arena was no longer available to us and we had increased to 1,000 people and really didn’t want to say to those 1,000 people well, now we’re down to 500 (again),” explained Kuhl.
The point of holding the Chase the Ace fundraiser was to put money into the Legions building fund. A new roof was needed at the time along with other repairs and now CTA has not only provided for that new roof, it’s also paid for a number of new renovations along the way. Next on the list is a new bar, which will be done shortly after this round of CTA is complete.
“We desperately need to renovate our bar, it hasn’t been renovated in years and there’s not a lot of space back there,” said Kuhl.
In addition, it’s also paid for the Legion to be open regular hours all year round, something that other Legion’s are struggling to do.
“There’s a lot of Legion’s around that have to go to reduced hours, that have to shut the doors essentially for part of the days because the business isn’t there so not only has it helped us to upgrade and maintain the building, it’s got a lot of people in made them realize it’s a pretty cool place,” said Kuhl.
Should the ace get pulled this weekend the next round of CTA will start up with a sizeable pot. Fifty per cent of ticket sales from Saturday, plus the amount set aside for the consolation will be used to start the next rounds’ opening pot. Only 25 percent of sales actually go back to the Legion, a number that is decreased once expenses are paid. 50 percent of all sales go to the pot, 15 percent to the consolation and 10 percent goes to the user group volunteering for the evening.

Trent Allen