Hosting Memorial Cup a big financial risk

Back in 2013, the Province of Saskatchewan was on the hook for nearly $700,000 after hosting the Memorial Cup. The bid to host the junior hockey tournament in Saskatoon promised to make a $3.5-million profit, but the tournament fell short.

Saskatchewan taxpayers paid $700,000 shortfall in 2013

Windsor Spitfires' Scott Timmins kisses the J. Ross Robertson Cup as the Spitfires celebrate their victory over the Brampton Battalion in the OHL Championship Series in Windsor, Ont., on May 8, 2009. (The Canadian Press)

Hosting the prestigious Memorial Cup junior hockey tournament comes with significant financial risk, but the gamble is one worth making, say organizers.

Windsor Spitfires president and part owner Bob Boughner has not revealed how much the tournament will cost him and his partners, but the group plans to at least break even.

Other cities have taken the risk. Back in 2013, Saskatchewan was on the hook for nearly $700,000 after Saskatoon hosted the tournament. The bid promised to make a $3.5-million profit, but the province ended up picking up the tab. 

"It's very risky. We had to put a big guarantee to get this tournament," Boughner said. "We're paying for all these teams to fly in here, we're paying for their hotel rooms. There's a lot that goes into it.

Having a sponsorship with FCA helps the city put a stamp on the Memorial Cup, says Bob Boughner, Windsor Spitfires team president. (Aadel Haleem/CBC)

In Windsor, the host committee and the Ontario Hockey League say there is no agreement that would see the city or the province pick up any financial shortfall. Event chairperson John Savage says the Windsor Spitfires organization assumed all the risk.

Windsor signs different agreement

Windsor's CAO Onorio Colucci confirmed there is no agreement that would leave local taxpayers on the hook.

Saskatoon's tourism bureau says its tournament was a successful 10-day event, despite the shortfall, that generated about $19-million in economic activity that wouldn't have otherwise happened. 

"We don't count spending from locals within the local economy," said Todd Brandt, president and CEO of Tourism Saskatoon. "This is by outside people coming into Saskatoon to participate in the event."

The tournament also paved the way for the municipality to make future bids on other sporting events.

Memorial Cup helped Red Deer through 'lowest point of the recession'

Last year's Memorial Cup in Red Deer, Alberta, also saw a boost to its economy, say officials.

Nearly 10,000 visitors to Red Deer, who wouldn't have otherwise been there, generated $13-million in economic spin-off benefits, according to Mayor Tara Veer. The number was calculated through hotels, retail and restaurant spending.

"[It] provided our community with a much-needed, substantial cash infusion through tourism dollars," she said.

Red Deer is set to host the 2019 Canada Winter Games and possibly other sporting events because the "community did such a great job hosting the Memorial Cup," said Veer.

In Windsor, Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island estimates the Memorial Cup will inject between $10 million and $17 million into the local economy.