Pro soccer on P.E.I. 'going to be huge' for economy, says tourism minister
Players, staff will be isolated during time on P.E.I. to ensure health and safety top priority
Canadian professional soccer coming to Prince Edward Island next month will prove to be an economic boon at a time when tourism has suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, says the province's tourism minister.
The Canadian Premier League announced its eight teams will play a shortened 2020 season in Charlottetown, starting Aug. 13. That means about 300 players and staff will be arriving on the Island in just over a week.
Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown says the city has contributed $100,000 to the $1.5-million cost of bringing the team to the city, adding that it was a good investment.
He personally is "very excited, and I know that it's shared by the staff here at city hall, it's shared by the councillors, and the priority will be to ensure that the health and safety of Islanders is first and foremost, but also for the players, the staff, the trainers and the coaches."
P.E.I.'s Minister of Economic Growth and Tourism Matthew MacKay says "the Island Games" will mean $5 million will be brought directly into the Island's economy, including catering, field security and player transportation.
"It's gonna be huge," he said.
"After the devastation of our tourism industry with COVID, this was a good opportunity to help the economy, but also it's a recovery to help with our marketing side for future years to come."
MacKay said he understands Islanders may be concerned to hear so many people from outside the Atlantic bubble are due to arrive. But he said extensive safety precautions are being taken.
"Right now the players are in four-week self-isolation. They've already been tested once for COVID — all 285 came back negative — and there's three more tests gonna be done before they ever play the first game," he said.
"They are going into a 55-day bubble where they will be self-isolating amongst themselves, to the point where teams don't even see each other, other than on the field. They will be staying at the Delta and each team will be on a different floor — even as far as the meals go, it's gonna be delivered. So a very strict protocol throughout this whole process."
They will not be going through an airport — it's all chartered flights. A tour bus will be picking them up at the tarmac; they will not be in the public at all.- Matthew MacKay
In addition, MacKay said the players won't be using normal travel methods to get to P.E.I.
"They will not be going through an airport — it's all chartered flights. A tour bus will be picking them up at the tarmac, they will not be in the public at all, and then they're going into a 55-day self bubble with the league itself," he said.
While Islanders may be disappointed they won't be able to attend games in person, and players and league staff won't be able to go out into the city to spend their money at local shops and restaurants, MacKay says the investment will be returned in the long run.
"It would have been huge, but at the end of the day, we feel we're in a good place right now. We've got to keep all Islanders safe," he said.
"We're looking at the long-term picture here, as well, just due to the marketing, what this is going to do for Prince Edward Island tourism in the big scheme of things, so we might not see a big financial impact this year, but it will certainly benefit us down the road."
According to MacKay, the publicity the Island will get from the league playing here will be the equivalent of a $12-million investment.
"This league is going to be … televised worldwide, so some of the top broadcasts that we could only dream to be a part of, we're going to be there promoting our island, we're going to be promoting what P.E.I. is. You might not be able to visit today, but in the future, we're going to be welcoming you with open arms," he said.
The new shortened season will begin Aug. 13 at the pitch at the University of Prince Edward Island.
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With files from Island Morning