Winnipeg whiteout street parties cost almost $2.2M, attracted 120,000 Jets fans

Economic Development Winnipeg has tallied the totals and says 120,500 fans crammed into the whiteout street parties this spring during the Jets' unprecedented playoff run.

True North not interested in taking on entire cost of future whiteout parties if Jets advance again

The whiteout street parties were a huge draw this spring during the Winnipeg Jets' unprecedented playoff run. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

The numbers are in and the total cost of hosting the nine whiteout street parties during the NHL playoffs has been placed at just under $2.2 million, with True North Sports and Entertainment picking up just over half the tab and holding onto the revenue.

Economic Development Winnipeg, which organized the downtown events, said Monday that a total of 120,500 fans attended the nine street parties over six weeks. That figure does not include the sellout crowd of roughly 15,000 fans who watched each game inside Bell MTS Centre.

The parties cost $2,167,000 to host. Of that total, Economic Development Winnipeg paid $120,000; and the City of Winnipeg incurred $962,000 in costs that are being managed with funds from existing municipal budgets, Economic Development Winnipeg said in a release Monday.

True North Sports and Entertainment covered $1,084,900, including $931,900 of production costs and a $153,000 contribution to the City of Winnipeg to help with policing and transit costs.

True North also kept revenue from beer sales and a portion of revenue from vendor sales at the events, totalling just over $500,000 for a net cost in excess of $600,000, said senior vice-president Kevin Donnelly.

Donnelly said True North is willing to discuss the model for the parties if the Jets advance to the playoffs in the future, but said the company's not interested in taking on the entire cost of the events.

"I think that whenever the committee, the group, wants to talk about what the next version might look like, we'd be willing to discuss that. If someone said that it's True North's expense and responsibility to pay for all of these costs, I think you'd see these things go away," he said.

"And I don't think that's good for the city, I don't think that's good for what we've seen. The improvement to the reputation this city enjoyed through these parties, I think, is absolutely undeniable."

'A challenge' for city departments: Michael Jack

The funding arrangement was estimated, calculated and agreed upon by all parties involved, Donnelly said.

Michael Jack, chief corporate services officer for City of Winnipeg, said the city knew resources would be needed as the Jets approached the playoffs.

"We were going to have to provide transit resources regardless, for whatever celebration occurred, whether it was an organized one as the one that occurred, or spontaneous ones all over the downtown," he said.

"We knew we were going to need to resource it, that's why from Day 1 we treated this as a partnership."

Jack said it would be "a challenge" for city departments to find the funding within existing budgets. City departments with overages are being asked to look at their own budgets to find ways to manage them.

"They are being asked to do so, but it is recognized that if that can't occur then we may need to come back requesting approval for over-expenditures," he said.

Last week, Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth said police overtime for the events cost about $788,000. Jack said the only other department with a significant overage is transit, at about $150,000.

The final party wrapped up May 20 with a Western Conference final-ending loss to the Vegas Golden Knights at Bell MTS Place.

The expansion-draft Knights ousted the Jets in five games to advance to the Stanley Cup finals, where they're currently facing off against the Washington Capitals.

About 100 hundred staff worked each of the nine street parties, which included five large screens, 165 portable toilets and 15 food vendors.

It took eight hours to set up and more than three hours to tear down each party, Economic Development Winnipeg said.

It was the first time a Winnipeg NHL franchise had ever made it to the Western Conference finals.

Dayna Spiring, president of Economic Development Winnipeg, said a formal assessment of the economic boon to the city from the parties will be completed within the next month or so. She expects the results to be positive.

"We are a city that doesn't always have the reputation of a big, cosmopolitan, glamourous city. We've got that now," she said.

"We've got that excitement, we know people know it's a big city with lots of great things happening, and there was an energy that people saw across the continent that's going to pay off for us."

The groups will meet on June 14 for a final wrap-up meeting to discuss the events, Spiring said.


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