January 4, 2017
Vancouver has become a sporting-event and tourism destination
How the Olympics raised the bar and put Vancouver on the world sports stage like never before
Credit: The Province / Author: Jennifer Saltman
John Moonlight has played rugby all over the world, from Paris to Cape Town, and Sydney to Singapore. But, the Team Canada Sevens captain’s favourite city in which to play is Vancouver, which hosted the Canada Sevens tournament for the first time this March.
“I’d say it’s the best place we’ve competed,” he said. “It exceeded every expectation.”
All of the things that Moonlight liked about competing in Vancouver — the committed fans, the hospitality, the “unbelievable” facility and beautiful surroundings — are what make the city an ideal location for major spectator and participatory sporting events.
Ask around, and there seems to be little doubt that Vancouver is already a sporting event and tourism destination — and it started long before the 2010 Winter Olympics, with events such as the Molson Indy, the World Figure Skating Championships, the IIHF World Juniors and the Vancouver Dragon Boat Festival.
Stuart Ballantyne, who was involved in Indy, the World Juniors, the Memorial Cup and more, and is now the senior vice-president of operations for the Edmonton Oilers, said Vancouver has always had “an amazing volunteer spirit and skilled event people.”
“Vancouver has been receptive to new events and has built a good understanding of how to work with events to achieve great results for the citizens, fans, volunteers, event producers and various civic departments,” he said.
The Olympics, however, raised the bar and put Vancouver on the world stage like never before, showing that the city had the ability and facilities to host almost any sport. The event was “a massive springboard,” said Ty Speer, the president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver.
“The power of the Olympics to open people’s eyes to what the city is all about was pretty unparalleled,” he said. “There’s not really anything like it.”
Since then, the city has hosted some high-level events, such as the 2012 Canadian Women’s Open Golf Tournament, last summer’s immensely popular FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Canada Sevens tournament in March.
Speer estimated that the current value of sports tourism in Vancouver is likely in the tens of millions of dollars, and will increase in coming years.
“It is really exciting times for Vancouver right now,” Rob Newman, president and CEO of Sport B.C. and CEO of the upcoming 2016 Americas Masters Games in Vancouver. “A lot of people value the sport experience and the excitement that comes from the sport experience.”
To take advantage of future sporting opportunities, the city has created Sport Hosting Vancouver. It’s a partnership between the city, Tourism Vancouver, PavCo, the Vancouver Hotel Destination Association and the University of B.C., and it began operating in December.
“We are a destination, we’re on people’s bucket list,” said Michelle Collens, manager of Sport Hosting Vancouver. “It was very successful for us, but it was time for us to bring our resources together and be proactive.”
The partnership is meant to provide one point of contact for event organizers as well as put together bids for major sports events that are a good fit for the city in terms of facilities, timing, interest and branding.
The city is also looking to bid on or create smaller participation and spectator events that can generate interest every year, and expand sporting events that are already running, like the RBC Gran Fondo Whistler.
“We find that the best outcomes for the city are those (events) that are great for people who live here and great reasons for people to visit,” said Speer.
Having a “one-stop shop” for event organizers is key and will help Vancouver going forward said Russ Cowan, executive director of the Vancouver Hotel Destination Association.
“It’s a highly sought-after type of travel, because not only does it directly benefit (the city), but I think it also strengthens the appeal of a place as a destination where we can host these types of things,” Cowan said.
The creation of Sport Hosting Vancouver has provided solutions to issues, such as a lack of coordination, that existed in Vancouver when it came to executing and pursuing sporting events, and UBC sports and entertainment law Prof. Joe Weiler said a similar organization should be set up regionally to court events that could involve multiple cities.
“It seems to me there is merit to having a regional sport-hosting, special-purpose vehicle and not just having one city doing it,” he said.
Going forward, Vancouver has some sporting events in the works.
Next year, the city will host two regular-season NCAA basketball tournaments, and Sport Hosting Vancouver is currently working on a bid for the 2018 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships.
Collens said Sport Hosting Vancouver would also help support a bid for the 2019 or 2021 World Juniors — which is already in the works — or a FIFA Men’s World Cup.
“The best is a long way from coming — many, many good things will happen here with sports and other events,” said Speer. “I think we’ll make some exciting announcements over the next handful of months.”
Full story here: The Province