A nine-day sporting event attracting Canada’s top female curlers will pump millions of dollars into the Red Deer region — long after the last rock is thrown.
Scotties Tournament of Hearts will run Feb. 18 to 26 at the Centrium — bringing scores of athletes, coaches, trainers and curling fans from across the country.
In 2004, Red Deer hosted its first Scotties competition, drawing 112,886 spectators. The city achieved the second-highest attendance in the history of the event, runner-up only to the 1998 tourney in Regina.
Ticket sales alone, at present, show that just under 82,000 people are coming to Red Deer.
Sherri Ryckman, chairperson of the organizing committee, expects thousands more will snap up tickets with less than a month to go. And with other events, including daily live entertainment at the Parkland Pavilion, she anticipates the total attendance will meet or exceed the 2004 attendance figures.
The last economic impact study done on the Scotties revealed that in 2009, Victoria generated about $12 million.
“We would expect that just over $1 million a day would come into our community during the nine-day event,” said Ryckman. “So we would end up with about $10 million to $12 million of economic impact.”
Individuals from around Central Alberta have approached Ryckman to say they have relatives coming for the Scotties.
“Those kinds of things will increase awareness in all the communities,” said Ryckman. “And those (visitors staying with relatives) will be going back and forth from the communities. And we have a lot of volunteers from the outlying areas as well.”
Ryckman noted the event isn’t just about curling. Even non-curling fans will be able to enjoy the city and take in the live entertainment at Westerner Park, as well as restaurants and other events off-site.
Rick More, manager of membership and community relations for Red Deer Chamber of Commerce, said the city hasn’t had a national event like this in a while, so the Scotties is very welcomed among businesses.
“In 2004, we had more than 100,000 seats sold and we’re about 80 per cent there,” said More. “So there will be great spinoffs for restaurants, shopping malls and hotels. Hotels will be sold out. A lot are right now.”
More said the benefits are long-lasting for Central Alberta curling rinks, too. Rinks and junior curling programs receive financial investment as a result of proceeds from the national tournament.
“And then you get media attention through TSN,” said More, regarding the sports television network. “So that’s good for Red Deer.”
More said there are no drawbacks to this event. There are far-reaching benefits from hosting the Scotties, he added.
“We have over 500 volunteers, so there’s more community involvement,” said More.
Howard Thompson, land and economic development manager for the City of Red Deer, said an event of this magnitude will result in positive impacts for the overall trading area, which essentially is Central Alberta.
That’s because visitors and others use the services of various hospitality, tourism-type businesses in different locations, he said.
Plus, with all the television exposure, Red Deer will be able to showcase “how proud we are of ourselves.”
“And who knows what the future will bring in terms of tourism and business opportunities for our community,” Thompson said.
Tourism Red Deer and Scotties organizers have formulated a way to help make it easier for visitors to spend their cash at local businesses and attractions.
They have partnered on creating a mobile application that can be downloaded on people’s smart phones.
The free application will get going at the launch of the Scotties tournament and will be promoted on a card provided when people walk into the curling venue, said Tourism Red Deer executive director Liz Taylor.
“It’s a mobile app for the web that will direct people to attractions,” said Taylor. The app information may include everything from shopping to special offers in town.
There will also be a Scotties mobile application providing scores, draws and other information.
When asked about the economic impact on Red Deer, Mayor Morris Flewwelling spoke up without any hesitation.
“I know what it’s going to do,” said Flewwelling. “We’ll see direct economic stimulus through the visitors, curlers, coaches who are coming in large numbers. They’ll increase our hotel occupancy, our restaurant foot-throughs. They’ll increase our spending of goods.”
Flewwelling said the economic spinoffs continue for a long time beyond the last curling shot. It’s almost like an echo, he said.
Visitors who come to the city for the week-long tournament may want to return in the summer. And the scores of spectators watching the national curling championships on television will also see Red Deer being showcased, piquing their interest in coming, Flewwelling said.
“There’s the boom in the lead-up to the event with equipment (needed) and promotions, and then there’s the actual event with the activities and spending — and then there’s a large group of people who will want to come back.”