The Ottawa Senators provide a boost to the capital region’s economy because of the tourists they bring in, according to a lengthy study unveiled Monday.

Former University of Ottawa professor Norm O’Reilly, uOttawa associate professor Eric Macintosh and a team of students examined the impact the Senators, their sports and entertainment group (the Bell Sensplex, Canadian Tire Centre, their various charities) and events at their facilities (concerts, the Bell Capital Cup and other tournaments) have on the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

O’Reilly told Ottawa Morning’s Hallie Cotnam the team brings in around $100 million a year in direct spending, with as much as another $100 million in “ripple effects” as well.

“When we look at branding, putting Ottawa on the map across North America as a potential tourist destination, a place for organizations from around North America to set up business… there’s a positive effect on awareness and what people think about Ottawa,” he said while explaining that potential ripple effect.

"This organization is very important to the Ottawa-Gatineau region."

He said that $100 million comes mostly from the approximately 118,000 tourists brought in annually by Senators regular season and playoff games and the money they spend in the community.

The study said 87 per cent of tourists said the primary reason for visiting the Ottawa-Gatineau area was related to the Ottawa Senators.

The "direct" impact does not include ticket sales, since the assumption is someone would have bought that ticket anyway, or the money spent by area residents, since their spending money would go to other recreational uses in the capital if the Senators weren’t around.

Similar studies have drawn criticism for failing to differentiate between local and tourist entertainment spending, said O"Reilly.

“We’re from the city, we would have done something else — gone to a restaurant, the NAC,” O'Reilly said.

In total, the team generated more than $3 billion for the local economy since its return in 1992, with direct revenues of more than $1.5 billion, the study found.

Cities with one major team closely tied to it

O’Reilly, who is now teaching at Ohio University, said the study should resonate with other smaller markets with one major sports franchise.

Norm O'Reilly

Norm O'Reilly is a professor of sports management at Ohio University. (Courtesy Ohio University)

“If you look at Toronto, if the Toronto Raptors were to leave it’s a very different argument because there are lots of other big sports entertainment properties,” O’Reilly said.

“This is a pretty unique situation, if you do have a city like Ottawa that has one major sports entertainment property and was to lose that, there would be some impacts felt both financially and in terms of the brand of the city, the awareness of the city etc., it would be negative.”

There had been concerns for the future of the Senators in Ottawa last summer after owner Eugene Melnyk said the franchise could be at risk if the city went ahead with a proposed casino bid for the Rideau-Carleton Raceway, which it did.

The full study results were revealed at an Ottawa Chamber of Commerce lunch on Monday.

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