Sports tourism continues to flourish in North Bay with the announcement on July 18 that the city has won bids to host seven OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) championship events for the province's top high school athletes.
Larry Tougas, hired by the city to help bring sports events to the community, says the city's track record, the quality of the local facilities, both indoor and outdoor, as well having the necessary banquet space, makes it appealing for high schools to come to the area. The city has hosted 17 OFSAA events in the last three years.
"You have to have a banquet and a lot of the southern Ontario schools can't afford to have banquets at $30 a head and we can. So there's an affordability thing up here that we can entice them to come here. Plus, to be honest with you, there's a lot of work to running OFSAA events and a lot of people don't want to run them," explained Tougas.
He credits local 'champions' representing their respective secondary schools for stepping forward to take on hosting duties. There is a financial windfall for the school if the event is successful. Tougas admits some schools are hungry for the additional money.
In the meantime, Sports Tourism North Bay will continue its practice of being proactive, aggressively bidding on events.
"Windsor is another area that's taken our model and they have nine OFSAAs next year. They've taken our model and they've said to OFSAA that they've taken an active approach to hosting things because North Bay is grabbing them all, and that's good, kudos on our part," said Tougas.
The first of the seven events is OFSAA Girls Golf hosted by St.Joseph-Scollard Hall this fall. Following two days of practice rounds, championship play will begin on Wednesday, October 11th. Coach Laurie Vezina, representing the host school, expects anywhere from 105 to 128 players.
"We've got GAO players, Golf Association Ontario, and this is all these kids do, and all of them are vying for scholarships to American and Canadian universities. So they're very specific golfers. It's an open event so these are the top female golfers in Ontario."
Ecole Secondaire Catholique Algonquin is set to host the OFSAA Girls 'A' Basketball Championships in November 2018.
Chippewa Secondary School will host the 2019 OFSAA Girls and Boys Curling in late March. Over 500 players, coaches, officials and parents are expected to attend.
The city hosted OFSAA badminton two years ago and has secured it again. It's set for May of 2019 bringing 500 athletes coming to the city.
The Widdifield Wildcats made a successful bid for the OFSAA 'AA' Boys Soccer for June 2019.
And West Ferris Secondary School is hosting OFSAA Boys 'A' Basketball in March of 2020.
In addition, the North Bay Nordic will be hosting the 2018 and 2019 Ontario Midget Cross Country Ski Racing Championships. These races will attract over 200 athletes between the ages of eight and 14 from 16 Ontario ski clubs.
Add to the list the Ford Women's World Curling Championship in March, and the projected impact of major sports events to the local economy is somewhere between $10 and $12 million.
Mayor Al McDonald says sports tourism continues to be the fastest growing segment of tourism, bringing thousands of people and millions of dollars into the local community.
He says since 2013, OFSAA events have contributed $6.1 million to the local economy. Last year's sports tourism events accounted for $2.7 million, and partway through 2017, it has generated $1.4 million.
McDonald says over the past four years, sports tourism has accounted for 7,400 hotel room nights and close to 10,000 visitors, which include athletes, coaches, officials, and parents. They, in turn, spend money on gas, food and retail shopping.
"Traditionally, our hotels are busy on weekends and not so busy during the week.These events actually fill the off-peak part of a week for our local hotels," said McDonald.
"The one thing that hinders us to even do more is the number of rooms that we have available to do these events. So, if we actually had more hotels or more hotel rooms, we'd be able to bring even bigger events into our community, but we have to be very strategic because we can't put everybody on the same weekend if there are not enough rooms."
The pursuit for more events for 2020 is already underway.