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CARHA Hockey

Tournaments lure thousands of dollars into Nanaimo's economy

Josh Aldrich, Daily News

Published: Monday, February 20, 2012

When the Nanaimo Tubbers senior hockey team started their annual tournament the goal was a good time and local bragging rights - 31 years later the event has become a major economic engine in the city's sports tourism sector.

The sports tourism industry continues to grow across the country, hitting $3.8 billion in 2010, and it affects the local economy by bringing millions of dollars every year into Nanaimo.

But the issue comes down to if the city is doing enough to spur on development in this area.

While the exact dollar amount is not yet known for this year's Tubbers tournament, conservatively it should be bringing in well in excess of $100,000 when compared to similar events.

"It's one of the biggest Canadian Amateur Recreational Hockey Association sanctioned events on the Island, outside of CARHA's own tournament in Victoria," said tournament organizer Tim Paw.

This year the tournament set a new high with 44 teams and roughly 650 people participating. Of those teams, 20 of them came from out of town, with at least 300 players staying in hotels, that's not counting spouses or children.

Paw estimates that each out of town player spent $100 a day for lodging and food for the three daytwo-night tournament.

But then they would also be buying gas, going to bars and liquor stores and shopping in the malls and downtown Nanaimo or sightseeing.

A study done on the 16 different tournaments and sports events that received city grants totaling $17,800 in 2009 showed that they had an economic impact of $1,1484,718.

But Liz Williams, the manager of recreation and cultural services for the city of Nanaimo, says the city averages between 60 and 70 of these events a year. "Nanaimo has a phenomenal grassroots base and . . . you have to have a strong grassroots base to have something like sports tourism grow," said Williams.

Williams says those 16 events doesn't even include the annual Dragon Boat races that bring in 50 teams, 1,800 competitors and over one million dollars a year. Throw in the fact the city generally hosts at least one major provincial or national sporting event a year that will only add to the total.

This year the big event is the B.C. Summer Swimming Association provincial championships in Aug. 13-19 at the Nanaimo Aquatic centre which is expected to bring upwards of 850 competitors from the Mainland to town. Preliminary studies through the Sport Tourism Economic Assessment Model show the city is conservatively expecting an impact of $1,251,415 from the week.

Williams also adds that the large grassroots events like the BCSSA's have more of an immediate impact on the region where as the high-end events like next year's Canadian Junior Hockey League Western Canadian Championships impact has more of a promotional and tourism impact for the region.

According to the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance spending associated with the industry hit $3.6 billion in 2010, up 8.8% from 2008, as compared to a 0.7% decrease in tourism demand in Canada as a whole over the same period.

To help increase the industry's impact in the region Williams helped form the Vancouver Island Sport Tourism Alliance 2010 and it helps with bids and hosting duties.

Kamloops has focused strongly on developing sports tourism for the city and they've averaged 100 events over the last three years with 27,000 participants and generating $11.8 million per anum in direct spending. They also average about $50,000 a year in grants to the different organizing groups hosting different events.

"When we hosted the Canada Summer Games in 1993 the community realized . . . the positive impact it had on the community and it solidified our goal to be Canada's Tournament Capital," said Jeff Putnam the Kamloops Parks and Recreation facilities and business operations manager.

Kamloops has also invested $50 million into their sporting facilities over the last five years. It's a touchy subject in Nanaimo, but it is an integral part of growing sports tourism in the city.

"It is becoming more and more competitive to try and bring people into the area for these types of events," said Susan Cudahy, the CEO of the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation. "An awful lot of areas have said 'Our economic development is going to be based on sports tourism' and they put the money behind the infrastructure to support it."


Some of the economic benefits of Nanaimo sporting events in 2009 included:

Dorman Timber Softball $45,532

Atom Challenge $91,997

Hockey Atom House 54,811

Bantam Hockey Tournament $106,823

Nanaimo Diamonds Synchro $49,547

Nanaimo Lacrosse Association $87,090

Nanaimo White Rapids $348,190



© The Daily News (Nanaimo) 2012

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