Sport tourism strategy could get some playing time

Councilor says sport tourism strategy is similar to the tourism master plan, which will assess Barrie in terms of infrastructure and resources for sport tourism

A sport tourism strategy for Barrie it is.

City council approved a direct motion Monday night to execute an agreement with the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) to receive $ 110,000 in project funding in support, through the Tourism Relief Fund, to complete a sport tourism strategy.

“Obviously, it’s funding that’s available for things like this sport tourism strategy,” said Coun. Gary Harvey, “and this direct motion is more of a process, to enable yourself (Acting Mayor Barry Ward) and the clerk to be able to sign off on the required authorities (applications).”

Harvey has said a sport tourism strategy is similar to Barrie’s tourism master plan, which will assess where Barrie is in terms of infrastructure and resources for sport tourism. It also recommends how to build a sport tourism strategy based on the arenas, venues, facilities and organizations Barrie has at this point.

The Ward 7 councilor said the strategy would also indicate which sports events the city should pursue that match Barrie’s assets in the short-term, and what the city needs to do in the long-term to be what Harvey has called “a premier Ontario sport tourism destination. “

He says winter sports tournaments, from November to April, have a $ 6.3-million economic impact in Barrie. Harvey is counting six tournaments, most hockey, although there was also one baton-twirling event.

The strategy would also give Barrie direction on the best ways to invest the municipal accommodation tax (MAT) and other tourism resources. The MAT reserve banks a four per cent levy on room rates at city hotels, motels and AirBnBs, shared between Tourism Barrie and the city.

Harvey said the sport tourism strategy will give the city an inventory of its assets, which works well with a review of Sadlon Arena.

Late last year, council decided the city will pay half the cost of an $ 85,000 consultant to assess sport tourism’s needs and growth opportunities at Sadlon Arena. That $ 42,500 came from the MAT reserve fund.

Barrie councillors looked at resizing Sadlon Arena last summer, approving a motion that city staff report back to them before completing and submitting a grant application for the Ontario Community Building Fund’s Capital Stream to expand the Bayview Drive facility.

The expansion would involve a three-storey addition on the north side of the building, including a new grand entrance to the arena with additional multi-purpose / trade show space, ticket booths, concessions, a multi-use sports bar, additional office and retail space, and possibly a new home for the Barrie Sports Hall of Fame. It would also involve additional dressing rooms, player dining and lounge facilities, medical facilities, storage and meeting space, a media lounge and VIP lounge, a new sound system, an upgraded green room along with additional spectator seating to bring its total to about 5,000 .

Harvey has said Barrie has not seen its share of sport tourism during the last decade, losing out to cities like Thunder Bay and North Bay for some large events, especially curling.

Most events are worth between $ 6 million and $ 20 million on average to the local economy, sometimes more, he has said. These events can include not only curling, but hockey and figure skating.

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