City to spend $300,000 to land sporting events

Windsor city council has allocated $300,000 in the capital budget to try to attract sporting events.
Windsor is in very prelimary talks with Red Bull in an effort to bring the air races back. (Red Bull)

Windsor is preparing to bid for several sporting events in the future.

City council has allocated $300,000 in the capital budget to try to attract the events.

Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said it does cost money to land high-profile sporting events.

"We're going to have a bid for the FINA swimming competition. There's a bid cost that's required to put a bid together," he said. "There's the [NHL] Winter Classic coming up. I don't know if we want to participate in that or not. There's a Memorial Cup bid for 2014 coming up. There's the Indy Grand Prix."

Another event on the radar is the Red Bull Air Races, which the city last hosted in 2010.

Windsor and Detroit co-hosted the air races in 2009. Windsor went it alone a year later. The event was a hit. Windsor is in "very preliminary talks" with Red Bull in an effort to bring the event back.

Francis said he expects Windsor to host more swimming events once the new $77-million downtown aquatic centre is complete.

Francis said the money will allow the city to be "more proactive" in pursuing events.

"We have a list of events we’re pursuing," the mayor said. "By bringing events here, we’re showcasing our region."

Francis pointed to Windsor's role in Wrestlemania and Super Bowl XL at Ford Field.

"We’ve already become what we want to become. We want to add to what we’ve achieved," he said.

Windsor hosted the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2012. It will not return in 2013. Despite a successful event this year, the Windsor Spitfires decided not to bid to host the event again, even though they were asked to do so.

Windsor Spitfires business manager Steve Horne said earlier this year that the club wants to focus its time and efforts on the team and the bid to host the Memorial Cup in 2014.

Sports could generate millions in revenue

The sports tourism industry has the potential to boost a city's economy.

Kamloops, B.C., which has a population of approximately 90,000, bills itself as the tournament capital Canada. Jeff Putnam is the city's parks, recreation facilities and business operations manager. He said the sports tourism industry generates $11 million in direct spending on annual basis.

Lee Morris of Tourism Kamloops said the city has experienced seven consecutive years of accommodation growth because more people are staying nights and weekends in Kamloops.

"Sports tourism has been a significant contributor to success here in Kamloops," Morris said. "But it really is a partnership with city's parks and recreation department. It has clearly helped us achieve continued growth."

Putnam said the city has a full-time tournament capital coordinator, who makes $60,000 a year. The city also budgets between $50,000 and and $100,000 on bid developments. It also has up to $600,000 set aside each year in order to bid on the more significant national and international events.

Putnam, who once lived in Sarnia and whose wife is from Windsor, said Windsor is positioned well to succeed in the market.

"Windsor has a lot of natural advantages," Putnam said.

He said warm weather, a network of interconnecting highways and a good base of local amateur sports organizations helped Kamloops succeed. Windsor has similar characteristics and the U.S. right across the Detroit River.