How many millions did Windsor get from hockey tourney?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Windsor Star/Doug Schmidt

A $300 stick might seem pricey for your average Windsor recreational hockey player, but if you’re from the other side of the world, it can be a steal.

“That $300 stick here can be worth $700 over there,” Robin Lauwereys, manager of Pirani’s Hockey World, said of one of the big sellers during last week’s CARHA Hockey World Cup.

A typically slow period between seasons saw one of the busiest sales spurts for the Windsor business as teams from around the world visited to stock up on hockey hardware.

Lauwereys said players from Sweden, Switzerland, Slovenia, Russia, Italy and elsewhere arrived by the busload — most unable to communicate in English but all of them keen on stocking up on equipment and souvenirs. “They all loved it, they thought everything in Windsor was great,” she said.

Last week’s international recreational hockey extravaganza was, by many participants’ accounts, “amazing.”

And the  proud local hosts are convinced it’s another feather in the cap for the Windsor brand in the sports tourism world. But just how financially well the city did is still being calculated.

When it comes to the organizers’ estimate of a $15-million economic impact to the host city, “we don’t just throw a number out there,” said CARHA organizer Reuben Greenspoon. Over the next month or so, he said number crunchers will be gathering stats and “plugging hard numbers” into a formula to calculate just how big a financial bonanza the event was for its host city.

In 2013, when Windsor city council agreed to contribute $750,000 towards the event, there were those — including then-mayor Eddie Francis — who questioned CARHA’s estimate of a $15-million economic boon to the city. Three years later, at the conclusion of the tournament that attracted 2,300 participants in 134 teams from 14 countries, Greenspoon said he expects the final tally will confirm that figure.

“They’re usually pretty close,” he said of the STEAM (Sport Tourism Economic Assessment Model) estimates of the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance used to calculate the economic benefits of such events.

“The numbers have been challenged before — some people believe the Sport Tourism Alliance and some don’t,” said Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island CEO Gordon Orr. He said his organization won’t be spending money on an “economic benefit analysis.”

Without a proper cost-benefit analysis, however, there’s no way of accurately measuring CARHA’s economic impact, said a University of Windsor professor who specializes in studying the social and economic impacts of sports and leisure. Marijke Taks said the STEAM model looks at the total amount of money coming in and being spent but that it doesn’t measure the impact that spending has on a local economy.

For example, she said, the STEAM figure includes what taxpayers themselves contributed, and it would also include monies the CARHA visitors spent in Detroit.

But Orr said local officials are “very happy” with what they’ve seen.

On the eve of the event, he said he was given a list that showed about $1.4 million in direct spending by CARHA organizers — almost twice the $750,000 Windsor put into the pot.

That amount doesn’t even begin to look at what 2,500 adult visitors might have spent over an average of eight nights accommodation in local hotels, as well as what they shelled out on food, drink and entertainment.

“At the end of the day, millions of dollars were spent in this community,” said Orr.

“Everything was fantastic … the games were amazing, Windsor is a fantastic community,” said Greenspoon.

What else could Windsorites have gotten in return for investing that $750,000? Taks gives the example of helping a company become established or expand, with “50 more people over 20 years — that’s a way bigger impact on the community.”

But success with events like last week’s CARHA — which takes place every four years and for which Windsor had to bid against 36 other communities — as well as this coming weekend’s FINA Diving World Series, are putting the city on the map.

“The City of Windsor … can definitely market itself as a sports tourism destination,” said Taks. Orr said tourism locally is a half-billion-dollar industry employing 16,000.

The question, said Taks, is whether Windsor should continue to invest large sums of local taxpayer dollars to draw such events as CARHA and FINA.