Long after the cheers have died down the MasterCard Memorial Cup’s legacy will live on.
Mayor Tara Veer sees an opportunity to brand in national minds what the “real Red Deer” is all about.
“This positions Red Deer so strongly for sport and sport tourism,” says Veer. “Hosting an event of this calibre only positions us for bigger and better in the future.”
Bigger is already a given, with the 2019 Canada Winter Games coming to the city.
Combined, the two events should put Red Deer on the map for those looking for a host community for all but the biggest events.
Veer also sees the event as giving the city a chance to “convey through our image and branding the identity of the real Red Deer on a national and an international stage.”
“First and foremost we become part of the proud tradition,” says Veer. “There’s nearly a 100-year tradition around the Memorial Cup and we will be named then among those cities which have been able to participate.”
At home, the Memorial Cup’s massive volunteer and sponsor mobilization will provide the game plan for future events.
Building that local volunteer capacity will serve the city well as it organizes for 2019, she says.
Also, not to be forgotten are the financial benefits of hosting. The economic spinoffs will come “at a time when we need it the most,” she says.
Spinoff tallies vary but range from $10 to almost $20 million. Saskatoon figured hosting the 2013 Memorial Cup provided a $19-million economic boost, and London, Ont. in 2014 was expecting $10 to $15 million.
For Red Deer, $17 to $19 million in economic spinoffs are projected.
Part of that includes direct contributions to local charities through 50/50 draws during the tournament. Some of that money has been earmarked for Fort McMurray to help it rebuild after the wildfires.
Decked out in her personalized Rebels jersey, Veer made it clear this week that the Memorial Cup is a very big deal. For the first time ever, the city issued a proclamation for a sports team when it officially dubbed May 23-27 Rebels Week.
The tournament’s impact will be felt long after the winners have hoisted the cup, the seats have emptied and hockey fans have returned home, she predicts.
Leaving a good impression should provide long-term benefits to the local business community, says Rick More, Red Deer and District manager of member and community relations.
“I think with any national event, obviously, the exposure never hurts us,” he says. The kind of advertising that comes along with a nationally televised premiere sporting event in a hockey-mad country is tough to put a dollar amount to — but it’s big.
But after the 10-day economic bump of the event itself, the return visits, the pencilling in of Red Deer on visitors’ future travel plans that provides a lasting benefit.
“That’s kind of your return investment in the long-term,” he says.
Rebels senior vice-president Merrick Sutter said hosting the Memorial Cup will also mean a lot for the local hockey club for years to come.
“Obviously, anytime your team can play on the national scale, that’s huge. We’ve seen it from the alumni perspective when we’ve got players playing on Hockey Night in Canada and on TV that’s a good sell for the program.
“From a hockey standpoint, the benefits are huge.”