For more than two years the talk around the city was the National Basketball League of Canada and the Summerside Storm.
The fans took to the team. The crowds were among the best in the league and the product was entertaining. But the honeymoon was over as quickly as it started and after two seasons, the Storm headed east to play in Charlottetown.
This left the city with many open dates that needed to be filled at Credit Union Place to generate revenue at the multi-million-dollar facility.
The city wasted little time and the department of community services struck a deal with Doug Dexter and the Summerside Area Minor Hockey Association to fill the void.
The agreement that was reached involved staging 16 weekend hockey tournaments that began last November and will run to March.
At first glance it seems hard to compare minor hockey to professional basketball but there was a method to the city’s madness in striking the deal.
Minor hockey is not a signature sporting event and doesn’t have the allure or the glamour of a professional sport. But the one thing it does do, and more so than the Summerside Storm ever did, is generate tourism traffic and an influx of tourism dollars into the community. In short, these tournaments do have a significant impact on the local economy.
When these teams come from off-Island, they bring with them players, coaches, fans, families and friends who all need a place to stay, food to eat and fuel for their vehicles. It provides a steady flow of people in and out of the city.
It was a smart move on the part of the department to realize that this often overlooked sports tourism package pays dividends in several different sectors of society. And another important factor is, this all happens in the off-tourism months for the service sector.
While the big signature events are attractive, they are a one shot, one night deal where people come to the event and then go home – not much spinoff for the local economy.
It’s a case of the city doing something that it does well – hosting events.
In 2013, Summerside hosted 52 minor and amateur sporting events and is projecting to be the venue for 67 this year.
Kudos to the community services department and to the city for bouncing back and developing a strategy that, in the end, means more revenue for the entire local economy during a time when business is slow.