Outlook 2017: All eyes on convention centre for NCAA event

‘First of its kind’ competition could become an annual cross-border tournament in the city

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mc-ncaa-basketball-feature_jan2016-credit-chung-chowPhoto Credit – Chung Chow

When it comes to the city’s 2017 sports tourism outlook, all eyes will be on the Vancouver Convention Centre during the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend. That’s when the venue will host an exhibition tournament of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball.

The convention centre’s exhibition space will be remade into a 3,000-seat venue that will include portable bleachers and video boards.

After an impressive 2016 in which Vancouver’s BC Place stadium hosted both the World Rugby Sevens Series and a World Cup qualifying game between Canada and Mexico, Sport Hosting Vancouver manager Michelle Collens said the NCAA tournament at the convention centre is another step toward turning the city into an international destination for sports tourism.

“This is the first of its kind in Canada,” Collens said. “High ceilings, bright light and open sight lines, so it’s pretty much an open canvas for us.”

Collens added that NCAA rules prevent teams from playing more than a certain number of games in the U.S., and the tournament could also pit division rivals against one another in preparation for the single-elimination March Madness tournament. While participants have not been named, men’s teams from Kentucky State, Duke, Gonzaga and Michigan State universities and women’s teams from Connecticut, Stanford, Baylor and UCLA could take part in the tournament.

Revenue for the NCAA men’s basketball alone was US$871.6 million for the 2011-12 season, most of it coming from television and marketing rights.

“What’s good for us is this is potentially creating something sustainable, so it’s not just one time,” Collens said. “We are looking at hosting this three to four years consecutively.”

The event is being put on by the U.S.-based bd Global event management firm, which primarily hosts basketball and golfing events around the world.

Brooks Downing, the company’s president and CEO, said in a release that the tournament will showcase multiple schools in multiple games over the long weekend.

“The beauty of the most common format used for these events is that every team will play multiple games in Vancouver as the tournaments will be structured with a winners’ and consolation bracket,” said Downing. “And since a team can only make a trek here once every four years, we’ll be hitting 64 different U.S. markets every 48 months. That’s a significant marketing approach that we think will drive future out-of-market tourism for Vancouver and the region.”

Significant revenue is also expected for local hospitality businesses from the 16 teams, as well as from visiting fans and media.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) has formally expressed interest in Canada hosting the 2026 FIFA  World Cup.

A formal bid from Canada could come in either 2017 or early 2018, but competing bids could come from heavyweight countries including Mexico and the United States. CSA president Victor Montagliani said in late 2015 that it might be an ideal time to host a men’s World Cup, given the success of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, hosted partly in Vancouver, and because Toronto has dropped its bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.