OKANAGAN OUTLOOK 2011 — 30 PENTICTON Sports Tourism: Taking it to the Next Level
Thanks to an ideal climate, picturesque setting and terrific facilities and infrastruc- ture, sports tourism is continuing its steady growth in Penticton.
Taking it to the next level and ensuring long-term sustainability of larger sports- based events may hinge on securing more sponsorship and investment from the com- munity.
“We don’t yet have an effective mechanism in place for securing events,” said Jeff Plant, sports tourism coordinator with Penticton and Wine Country Tourism (PWCT). “If we’re going to attract events – particularly in the shoulder seasons – that match our top-class facilities, we have to look long-term and budget for it.”
The City of Penticton and the PWCT will begin implementing its Sports Tourism Strategy plan in November. Plant’s contract was first extended to November and now has been stretched to Jan. 15, 2012 but on a part-time basis, effective immediately.
After that, the future is somewhat murky.
“No additional funds have been found or al- located – we are simply stretching the length of the contract by moving Jeff to three days a week,” said Jessie Campbell, tourism mar- keting manager with PWCT.
Campbell said PWCT is working with the City on more sustainable funding, which would see a full-time position for sports, meetings and events be created at PWCT.
“Until that funding is found, Jeff’s position and the ability of our organization to further execute the Sports Tourism plan ceases to exist after Jan. 15,” said Campbell.
Penticton still has a loaded calendar for
sports tourism with 130 events that attract out-of-town visitors to the city.Th
at number includes eight one-week sessions of the Okanagan Hockey School.Th
e hockey school and the Ironman Canada triathlon are the big money spinners, annually generating around $13 million apiece for the local econ- omy.
“Sports tourism is much more on the radar in the tourism industry as a whole,” said Plant. “There is a very direct return in event tourism. It gives us an appeal beyond the summer months and the seasonality that af- fects the wine industry and allows us to use our infrastructure during the slower times.”
Plant said a big focus is on securing the
right mix of events and filling unused capaci- ty outside of July and August to take advan- tage of Penticton’s facilities. He suggested that one major event in March might in some instances mean more than six smaller ones in July.
“A lot of these larger events require some
investment from the community and a lot of them are planned two or three years ahead, so we need to have a means to break into the cycle,” said Plant, a former manager at Apex Mountain Resort. “There are some very pro-active sports communities out there – Richmond, Langley and Whistler are some prime examples.We are competing against some very sophisticated and well-funded or- ganizations.”
Plant said it is important to enhance the ca- pacity of local sports groups to host major events.
“We rely so much on these volunteers and
we need to play more of a role in making life easier and better for sport in our community,” said Plant.
Plant said that “success breeds success” in
the event game, noting the World Junior A Challenge, the NHL Young Stars Hockey Tournament, Ironman and the Dragon Boat Festival turn the spotlight to Penticton.
“We’ve got some targets in terms of what
we’d like to achieve in the next five years,” said Plant. “It’s more strategic as opposed to absolute numbers.”
Looking at some of the new or growth
events from this year, Penticton hosted the following:
— Junior All Native Basketball Tournament. March. 500 participants
— Pinnacles Spring Cup Soccer
Tournament. March. 48 teams — Gymnaestrada.Ma
y. 500 participants
— Provincial “B” Soccer Championships. July. 1200 players
— Granfondo Axel Merckx. July. 1900 partici- pants. Local Economic Impact $2.3 million.
— Camp of Future Champions and Wine Country Criterium. Cycling — Skaha Climbing Festival
— Raymond James Dragon Boat Festival. September. Grew to 3,000 paddlers. — Fall bike fest. Continues to grow.
These events are in addition to the staples of the event calendar that includes the Okanagan Hockey School and tournaments, Penticton Vees, Ironman and Ironman train- ing camps, slo-pitch tournaments, Hit to Pass and stock car racing, soccer tourna- ments, outrigger canoes and early-season training (4,000 room nights into Penticton last season) and events at Apex.
Plant said the City and PWCT are also bid-
ding for the B.C. Seniors’ Games in 2014 with an entourage from the Games’ society visit- ing the city on Sept. 30, while the Canadian Curling Association is expected to make a major announcement in October regarding a national competition in Penticton for 2013.
Also, the B.C. High School Wrestling Championships will be hosted by Penticton in 2012, while the Granfondo event will also be back.
“We’ve got quite a few irons in the fire right
now,” said Plant.“We’re just starting to tap our potential.”
Plant said the South Okanagan Events Centre is a huge factor for Penticton securing such events as the Young Stars Tournament.
“It’s an event that makes great use of the SOEC … using it for what it was designed to do,” said Plant. “Again, it’s potential for a long-term event in the shoulder season that provides a significant number of hotel stays and new dollars in our community.”
Plant said the visitors who spend time at the SOEC remained amazed at its quality and scale for a community of Penticton’s size.
“The functionality of its design and the close proximity to amenities such as the Trade and Convention Centre and the Community Centre is very appealing,” said Plant.
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