To anyone who was able to make it out to the Meridian Canadian Open this past week, you probably noticed what a great atmosphere it was – but it was also great for city coffers, as the economic impact on the area has been estimated at $2 million.
That’s because the Civic Centre was sold out for the entire weekend and even the morning draws during the week brought crowds that surprised the curlers.
Russ Brown, co-chair of the organizing committee, said not all the numbers have been calculated, but that there were roughly 25,300 total committed seats sold over the course of the tournament. That tops Yorkton’s previous tournament high of just under 20,000.
Brown also estimated that more than 50 per cent of tickets were sold to areas outside the Battlefords, mostly in Alberta and all over Saskatchewan.
With thousands of visitors coming to town, the economic impact was significant.
“The average [economic impact] for these things is estimated to be $1.3 million,” Brown explained. “Nobody has ever gone over 20,000 [seats] before. So we’re probably 20 per cent more than anybody else. I’m guessing that we will be somewhere in the $2 million range [in terms of economic impact]. It’ll take some time to do that analysis.”
The success didn’t go unnoticed – not by the players, organizers, or by Sportsnet.
“I think overall we exceeded our expectations in terms of the distance that we attracted fans and certainly the numbers,” Brown said. “We were optimistic but we weren’t as aggressively optimistic as this turned out. We’re tired, but happy.”
Of course, another huge plus for the community was the national TV coverage.
For the first time ever, Destination Battlefords aired a nationally televised commercial. In fact, they had two different ones, one promoting the winter and one promoting the summer.
“When you’re hosting an event of this calibre, you can’t waste any opportunities,” North Battleford mayor and Destinations Battleford executive director Ryan Bater said. “So that’s why we chose to vote the resources into that commercial, because we had the audience.”
It wasn’t just the commercials that promoted the area, but also the commentators promoting it during the broadcast.
Brown said they were promised 20 hours of national TV coverage, and they ended up getting 27.5
“To create a really positive environment on TV that I believe perhaps exceeded anything that they’ve been able to show before, that’s big for us,” Brown said.
“The [commentators] were just saying such glowing things about our community,” Bater added. “It just made us all very proud. It was just all around a very, very positive week for the Battlefords and for the Twin Rivers curling club and for the sport of curling in the Battlefords.”
Bater, Brown and Wayne Cubbon, the other co-chair, all said they heard nothing but good things from all sorts of people.
Brown said Newfoundland skip and men’s Canadian Open champion Brad Gushue told him it was likely the best event he had competed at and that the organizers should be proud of themselves. Brown also ran into Toronto skip John Epping when was checking out of the Gold Eagle Lodge.
“I just asked [Epping] how it went and he said, ‘Fabulous. Everything’s great. The hotel’s great. The facility, the volunteers were great, the ice was great,’” Brown said. “The curlers loved it. They loved the atmosphere. They love curling in front of huge crowds. They loved the knowledge of the game and the appreciation of great shot making.”
“The players talked a lot about the crowd,” Bater added. “They’re not used to an 8 a.m. game attracting 500 or 600 people. They’re used to smaller crowds. So they were very impressed with that… and the players feed off of that. That gives them momentum for their performance. So that was something that came loud and clear from the players – was the quality of the crowd and the respect from the crowd.”
The fact the tournament went on without a major hitch also played a role.
“Once the event started, there was really nothing that we had to take care of,” Cubbon said. “The chairs of all of our different areas were really really really good to work with. So we had the right people in the right place and everything went really really smooth.”
And that couldn’t have been made possible without the help of over 150 volunteers, who often worked difficult hours.
But Bater said the volunteers were always smiling and that they’d do it again if they could.
“A lot of things had to get done and it all got done,” Bater said. “We weren’t short of volunteers. We had actually a waiting list of volunteers that said, ‘If you need me, call me.’”
Overall, Bater said, the entire city deserves a pat on the back.
“The support from the local community in terms of buying tickets and coming out and being just a really lively crowd [was huge],” Brown said. “[They] helped create an atmosphere that people could see across the country.”
Nathan Kanter is battlefordsNOW’s sports reporter and voice of the Battlefords North Stars. He can be reached at [email protected] or tweet him @NathanKanter11
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