City and tourism officials set aside $200,000 to attract a major international women’s hockey tournament to Ottawa, according to documents obtained by OBJ.
© File photo
More than 150,000 tickets were sold to the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship, which took place in Ottawa this month.
The expenditure was the largest line item on a budget of $442,500 allocated to bringing big events such as the IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship to Ottawa in 2013. That follows last year’s budget, which committed $468,000 to bid on future events such as the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup of soccer.
The figures, obtained through a municipal freedom of information request, provide insight into the costs of a major plank of Mayor Jim Watson’s economic development strategy.
Mr. Watson campaigned on a plan to bid on larger events – many of which are related to sports – as a means of boosting the local tourism sector. The city established a major events office in conjunction with Ottawa Tourism in 2011 to actively pursue bids on an ongoing basis, rather than chasing opportunities as they emerge.
The office, dubbed Events Ottawa, claims bidding on these events has brought millions of dollars to the nation’s capital. However, those economic spinoffs come at a cost.
The city has agreed to provide $550,000 in annual funding to the office, according to documents, with Ottawa Tourism adding $86,500. The municipality is also providing a full-time staff member on secondment to Events Ottawa.
The increasingly competitive sports tourism landscape makes spending public money necessary, Mr. Watson said in an interview.
Many U.S. states are boosting funding to attract people to their part of the country, he said, so Ottawa has to make sure it can keep up.
Mr. Watson argued that the benefits extend beyond filling local restaurants, hotels and taxis. Televised events such as the women’s hockey championship also showcase the city to viewers who will see shots of local landmarks before and after commercial breaks.
“People (get to) see Ottawa in a different light than the normal nightly news, which is politicians shouting at one another in question period,” he said. “You can’t always put a value on that, but then other people watching hopefully have the idea (that) ‘maybe we should have an event in Ottawa.’”
The funding has also allowed the office to establish relationships with national sports organizations and other groups responsible for picking host cities for major events.
Events Ottawa officials have met with 29 different organizations, according to the documents, including the International Basketball Federation and the Canadian Soccer Association.
The office is also working on the bid process for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the documents stated.
Mr. Watson said he wants the city to host curling events such as the Brier and the Tournament of Hearts, as well as a Major League Baseball exhibition game for the Toronto Blue Jays.
SIDEBAR: Opening bids
Event attraction budgets:
2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup: $400,000
2013 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championships: $200,000
2013 ITU World Duathlon Championships: $75,000
2013 National Gymnastics Championships: $62,500
2013 Capital Karting Classic: $50,000
2014 Canadian Figure Skating Championships: $50,000
2013 Canadian Comedy Awards Festival: $40,000
2014 Capital Karting Classic: $30,000
2013 CIS Men’s Basketball Championships: $25,000
2014 CIS Men’s Basketball Championships: $25,000
2012 NHL All-Star Game (in-kind): $20,000
2012 Ontario Gymnastics Championships: $15,000
Source: Events Ottawa planning document