CNE Opening Day: Ex hopes to lure new fans with Pokémon Go

This year, along with food topped with deep fried bugs, there'll be something else to draw the adventurous to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds: Pokémon Go.

31 Pokéstops and 4 Pokémon Gyms are located in the Ex to lure fans of the game

This is just one of the Pokemon Go characters fans of the game will be able to find at the CNE this year. (Philip Lee-Shanok/CBC)

This year, along with food topped with deep fried bugs, there'll be something else to draw the adventurous to the Canadian National Exhibition grounds.

The Ex will be crawling with Pokémon. Staff have set up 31 Pokéstops and four Pokémon Gyms to lure digital creatures like Venusaur, Charizard and Pikachu and those who hunt them.

And for fans of the augmented-reality mobile game adding Pokémon will mean the first visit to the Ex in a long time.

"I think it was when I was 12 and I went with my parents and since then I haven't gone back, but now that I know there are Pokéstops I may have to visit this weekend," said Aaron Brittenden, who is 24.

As Pokémon Go players or "trainers" know, Pokéstops are where they can collect extra digital rewards, such as, Pokéballs and potions.

And Pokémon Gyms are locations where trainers can battle their Pokémon against others for prestige, control of a competing team's gym and Poké coins.

Brittenden, who works in marketing, says it's a great strategy.

"Oh, 100 per cent. I think it will also add to the experience of the CNE, which is awesome. Like, go catch Pokémon, hang out at the CNE, eat some food and what not. I think it's really smart," he said.

"It's kind of crazy and they're going to get a lot of business from it so it's smart for them to do that."

Virginia Ludy is the general manager of the CNE. She says they've had nothing but positive feedback about their Pokémon plan.

"They're at different attractions around the site — some in  the midway, the Rose Garden, Bandshell Park," she said. "Everyone seems to enjoy the game so might as well join them."

'A huge craze'

Ludy says there are four that are on the grounds year round, but they won't be accessible during the Ex because their locations are being used for other purposes.

"It's a huge craze and everybody seems to be engaged with it. We don't know how long the craze is going to last. But I know anything we've put up on social media has had a really positive response," she said. "And I say anything that get people out doing more physical activity is great."

The game has seen some backlash from those who say it is an unsafe distraction.

But the game has been a global success. San Franscisco-based developer Niantic launched it in July and Pokémon Go has reportedly been downloaded more than 100 million times.

Anna Wong, 30, says there are many misconceptions about the game. For her, it's about learning about things she's passed by dozens of times.

"I like how it's interactive it really makes me enjoy my environment more. I'm walking more. I'm learning about public art and history of it," she says. "I think if[critics]played it they would like it."