“We used to bid for events 10 and 12 years ago and we didn’t do it very well and we just got tired of losing,” said Cyril Leeder, the president of the Senators Sports and Entertainment. “So we made a focus on it to get good at it.”
That renewed emphasis has been on display during the past few years, as the organization has helped host the World Junior Hockey Championship, the NHL All-Star Game and the Juno music awards.
The next few months will feature even more one-off sporting events at Scotiabank Place. The Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s basketball championships will take place in early March, with the IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championships following in April.
The main difference between now and a decade ago is the amount of resources the organization is devoting to bringing in these events, said Mr. Leeder, speaking Thursday at the Mayor’s Breakfast Series organized by OBJ and the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.
“Rather than just reacting to a bid when it came up, we had a group put together that pursues them in advance of the bids actually coming up,” he said in an interview following the event.
Planning for this year’s basketball event, for example, started five years ago.
The Senators have two staff members who work on bids “on a regular basis,” he said. This allows the organization to know who the major players are and what the deciding factors are when it comes to making a decision about who will host.
Mr. Leeder said the team is also doing a better job of partnering with governments such as the City of Ottawa and the Province of Ontario.
He cited the work the city put into the World Juniors as an example. They gave the organization access to the Transitway so each team could use it to get to the Scotiabank Place, he said, which included helping to train drivers.
The city also helps with road closures and “pageantry” such as banners on city streets showing which events are taking place.
The recent successes don’t mean the organization is always successful when it comes to bidding for these events, though. Mr. Leeder said they tried to get the 2013 Olympic curling qualifiers but ultimately lost.
Sports tourism has been a major point emphasis for the city since Mayor Jim Watson took over as mayor more than two years ago. The city has devoted significant resources towards bidding on the events such as those taking place in the next two months.
Scrutinizing the benefit that spending public money has created is an important part of the process, said Mr. Leeder.
“If they don’t generate the economic development, we shouldn’t be spending the dollars against it,” he said.
But he insists that the Senators special events have generated significant benefit for the city. He cited figures showing one-off sporting events bring in about $25 million a year to the Ottawa economy.