Red Deer is ready to put an end to Alberta’s 40-year drought of hosting Canada’s most prestigious junior hockey tournament.
City council backed the Red Deer Rebels’ quest to host the 2016 Memorial Cup with $200,000 in up front money over two years and another guaranteed $200,000 grant if the event is in a deficit position.
Councillors said hosting the event would bring many benefits to Red Deer including positioning the city as a prime location for sports tourism.
Coun. Tanya Handley said this is a well-run local franchise that gives back to the community.
“It is a huge part of our community,” she said. “We are a hockey city. I think about all the little hockey players on our community rinks that dream of playing in the Memorial Cup.”
The Memorial Cup is expected to generate an estimated $18 million in economic impact.
Coun. Buck Buchanan said the visibility and recognition that comes as a result of hosting the cup would be outstanding for the community.
The last time Alberta held the Memorial Cup was in 1974. The Rebels lost its bid to host the 2013 cup to the Saskatoon Blades. At the time council guaranteed $300,000 if the team won the hosting duties.
Darcy Mykytyshyn, chairman of the last bid committee, told council they are asking for “cash on the table” this time to demonstrate that the city has more skin in the game. He said this grant is on the lower end compared to what is asked of larger cities.
Rebels owner Brent Sutter said the boost from the city is an encouraging step in the process but there’s still work to do before the successful community is announced sometime in October.
“(Vancouver) hosted the cup in 2007,” said Sutter. “An event like that gets lost in a big city at times. Yet they did an outstanding job in 2007… we’re competing against an organization and a city that has hosted this event not too long ago. It’s time Red Deer and Alberta gets that opportunity because it hasn’t been hosted in our province in a long time.”
The Memorial Cup is hosted by a team in the Western Hockey League every three years. The host team has an automatic entry into the 10-day competition.
B.C. has hosted the cup five times while Saskatchewan and Manitoba has each held it four times.
Ron LaRiviere, bid committee chairman, said 90 per cent of the Rebels’ 4,000 season ticket holders have indicated they would buy cup ticket packages. LaRiviere said there will also be sponsorship opportunities and expected financial contributions from the province.
Mykytyshyn told council that the event will be boasted as a celebration of hockey in Alberta. He said the opportunity will allow the city to leverage the event as it looks forward to hosting the Canada Winter Games in 2019.
The Rebels’ bid submission will include a plan to incorporate the country’s veterans and Canadian armed forces personnel with Memorial Cup festivities and drawing on the city’s youth.
Despite the failed bid in 2013, the city expanded seating in the Enmax Centrium with city and provincial grants in order to ready the facility to host such events.
The Rebels won the Memorial Cup in 2001.
In other council news:
The next step in developing northeast Red Deer took a step forward with council’s stamp of approval on two high level conceptual planning documents.
Council approved the East Hill Major Area Structure Plan bylaw amendment to incorporate the proposed Section 26 Multi-Neighbourhood Plan. The high level planning is needed to guide the future development of the quarter section. It outlines how the neighbourhood planning principles can be achieved, the road patterns, broad land uses including environmental and open space uses.
Council also approved the proposed northeast High Schools and Play Fields Area Structure Plan bylaw amendment. The documents are key to developing the new area that will boast three high schools and competitive sports facilities. The site is located next to 67th Street and the 30th Avenue intersection. The high schools will be clustered on the east side of the site and will be developed using a campus model. The west side will boast a series of competitive sports fields.