Where is the economic spinoff of the Pan Am Games?

Officials from the city and the 2015 Pan Am Games are anxious to paint a picture of swelling economic spinoff. But Nirmit Patel knows better.

Not even businesses in the shadow of the stadium have seen flourishing sales

Nirmit Patel, owner of Welcome Mart at Gage and Barton, put in a food counter to accommodate hungry Pan Am Games goers. But Patel is one of many business owners who says his customer count has stayed about the same. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Officials from the city and the 2015 Pan Am Games are anxious to paint a picture of swelling economic spinoff, and an influx of outside cash and crowds as a result of the international sporting event.

But Nirmit Patel knows better.

Patel owns Welcome Mart, a convenience store at the corner of Barton and Gage streets. He's one block away from the CIBC Stadium, where Pan Am soccer matches are held.

All I see is buses going in and buses going out.- Nirmit Patel, business owner

Patel believed the hype enough to install a $4,000 food counter. He wanted to serve Jamaican patties, wraps and submarine sandwiches to Pan Am goers.

But like other entrepreneurs around the stadium, Patel said the crowds haven't come. Most say they've seen no increase at all since July 10, and in some cases, business has declined.

Patel sees a roughly 20-per cent increase in sales when there's a game at the stadium. So it hasn't been negative. But only his regulars are buying subs.

"With the preparation I did, getting everything ready for Pan Am, it hasn't given enough response back, business-wise."

Kerry's Party for Less puts out a table every day in the hopes of drawing Pan Am Games revellers. So far, it hasn't worked. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The crowds are there, it seems, but they are mainly limited to the stadium. Many seem to take the GO train or park their cars, watch the games and go home without spending a dime in the neighbourhood.

"All I see is buses going in and buses going out," Patel said.

Soccer fans have "snapped up" about 200,000 tickets for the games, said Kevin Dove, Pan Am Games spokesperson. That's about two-thirds of the available tickets.

On Saturday, Brazil and Canada sold out the 19,000-seat game. The men's final is sold out. Only a few thousand seats remain for the men's bronze medal match and the women's gold medal final.

"There are still many great seats left for the semi-final matches," Dove said.

Games officials booking hotels

Some local hotels report a positive impact. Room rentals increased 9.5. per cent at the Sheraton, Homewood Suites and Staybridge Suites in July, said Peter Tosh, director of operations with Vrancor Hospitality Corp. He attributes that to room rentals by athletes, officials, media and others.

"There's definitely some peak," he said. "I think that possibly people's expectations might have been greater than what's happening, but I can tell you that we are thrilled and excited about having the Pan Am Games."

But if the crowds are there, they're not coming to Ottawa Street, where the BIA is hosting food trucks at a temporary Pan Am-themed food court.

Chalk outlines celebrate the Pan Am Games on Ottawa Street. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Kerry James owns Kerry's Party for Less on Ottawa Street North. Every day, she puts a table in front of the store with prime game gear, including noisemakers, Canadian flags, rain ponchos and bags of popcorn. So far, no one has bought it.

James was going to carry official Pan Am gear, but it was expensive and she worried about having too much left over. So she didn't order any.

"It was a very good decision," she said.

Across the street at The Cannon coffee shop, business has decreased slightly, said owner Cindy Stout. "I would love to be able to say why."

Some attribute the issue, in part, to game goers not being able to leave the stadium once they enter. This includes people with tickets for double bills who have some time to kill between games. 

"I feel disappointed at what hungry people are missing," said Lauren Olson, Ottawa Street BIA marketing and events coordinator.

Pan Am trade forum 

The city is compiling a report on the economic spinoff of the games, said Neil Everson, Hamilton's director of economic development.

It will hold a bilateral trade forum Thursday with other Pan American countries to encourage investment in Hamilton. And it held two realty tours to show off Hamilton properties for sale.

Not one person had a crystal ball showing us what to expect.- Kerry James, business owner

For now, few want to say anything negative about the Pan Am Games.

Richard Sayej, the city's Pan Am communications co-ordinator, said he doesn't have attendance or shuttle bus numbers yet. "We just know the numbers are encouraging."

The city has held numerous Pan Am events around the city, from Celebration Square in Gore Park to a Pan Am-related It's Your Festival in Gage Park.

There are no gates, he said, so he doesn't know how many attended. But "we know the public is aware of them and appreciates the chance to enjoy the events."

In the International Village, people gather at an International House viewing station at Ferguson Station. Susie Braithwaite, executive director of the International Village BIA, says she doesn't know how many people have used it, but says it's a "steady stream."

"It hasn't been mind blowing but it's been what we've expected — just giving the community a place to watch the games and a sense of comfort and security."

James still sees the Pan Am Games as a success too. She even attended the Canada versus Brazil game.

"This is a great adventure," she said. "It puts us on the map."

As for spinoff, "not one person had a crystal ball showing us what to expect."

Even Patel is laid back. He was going to install a food counter anyway, he said.

"It will still work out," he said. "We'll make something out of it."