By Michael Sun, Sports Editor
With the year coming to a close, there’s time to reflect on the numerous sporting events Ottawa has hosted in 2017 as part of Canada 150 – and also look to events ahead.
But there is one underlying question: was it all worth it?
On one hand, there’s a temptation to say yes straight away, as Ottawa was very much the centre of the Canadian sports scene in 2017 – from the Red Bull Crashed Ice championships in March to the Grey Cup in November to the Roar of the Rings tournament this month.
On the other hand, there are costs associated with those events. For instance, the recently opened Parliament Hill Rink cost about $5.6 million. The rink, originally scheduled to be open from Dec. 7-31, has been extended to the end of February, which means it could cost another $2 million or so, bringing the total up to about $7.6 million.
There have been some complaints about restrictions to the rink’s rules (no hockey or figure skating during public skating, no cell phones until recently allowed) but there are also plenty of events scheduled, as well, including hockey and ringette tournaments in addition to Ottawa Senators practices and alumni events.
One might ask whether the opportunity for people to skate on the rink, along with some tourism revenue, outweighs the cost?
With major events, the question should be: how much does it benefit the city? This mostly means tourism revenue. For example, the 100th Grey Cup in Toronto in 2012 generated total economic activity of $133.1 million throughout Ontario, including $94.7 million in Toronto. In that case, the economic activity also involved $38.4 million in wages and salaries as well as 795 jobs.
While the impact of Ottawa’s recent Grey Cup game and associated activities has yet to be measured, the Canadian Football League states that other Grey Cups in recent years have generated economic activity in the $100 million range.
The past shows that even success comes at a cost for the businesses hosting these events. The Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, responsible for Lansdowne Park (including TD Place), reported a $14.4 million net loss at the end of 2016 — and cited the unanticipated costs of the Redblacks winning the Grey Cup as part of the loss.
Even after the Grey Cup, the events don’t stop. There’s also the National Hockey League’s 100th anniversary outdoor game between the Sens and Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 16. Two local junior teams will also face off as the Ottawa 67’s play the Gatineau Olympiques, an important game for OSEG as it owns the 67’s.
At the end of 2017 (or perhaps earlier), numbers will be piled up as costs, revenue and economic impact will be counted.
However, despite significant costs and uncertain economic value, the experience for the citizens also matters: the opportunity to witness and be part of these sporting events, to be around these festivities, to skate on Parliament Hill.
And the value of that experience can’t really be measured.