(WINDSOR, ON) – A report by city corporate initiatives manager Mel Douglas on the city getting involved in sports tourism, prepared for Windsor’s city council meeting of October 5, contains an alarming number of warning bells. It was put together after a councillor wondered if the city should have a unit responsible for engaging sports impresarios and others to bring their events to Windsor.
One of the most telling is why Burlington does not have sports tourism as a main mandate. That Ontario, “… city prefers not to see displacement of sport play of regular residents in (its) facilities.” In other words, taxpayers who have paid to build sports facilities should have unrestricted access.
Not so in Windsor, which often closes its buildings to host expensive competitions, said to put it on the world map.
Apparently, and this will not shock those discouraged about accountants running the city, so-called, “… advice from surveys of Sport Tourism …” suggest the city council should not be involved in deciding which events to chase or fund.
There is a, “… quicker turnaround for bids than if (they) have to go to Council each time.”
This makes sense. There is no conceivable reason for the council to start messing about with sporting events. It is much better to lock them out, and their responsibility to taxpayers, and let the administrators play sports magnates.
Sports tourism, it is assumed, requires pertinent expertise and knowledge. It is not normally something an accountant or administrator could handle. However, Windsor could start with a contract position in the mayor’s office and then be, “… recommended to become an administrative position.”
Later in the report it suggests that one person could do the job at a cost of $120,500 a year.
Intriguingly, the report boasts the International Children’s Games needed 12,000 hotel room nights to generate an estimated return of $8.9 million. It is an odd claim given most of the visitors were billeted or put up in dormitories.
What is even more interesting is the mayor’s $21 million short swimming event next year will need a few more hotel room nights, 15,000, but generate a much larger return at an estimated $19 million. A hockey event needing 10,000 rooms is expected to produce a return of $15 million, but does not need an $80 million unusable Olympic pool.
As usual, no documentation for any of this is provided.
Although no surprise, the report says some events could need additional facilities. It is well-known the city has a shortage, so much so it had to host a scaled down version of the Ontario Summer Games. It is also handicapped with a downtown natatorium that is too small to host even mediocre, second tier events.
Before Windsor starts hiring people to promote sports tourism, it might start with the basics of building a good inventory of proper facilities. Of course, it is going the other way by closing pools, arenas, community centres, and anything else locals might enjoy and that could be used.
While the report recommends the local regional tourism outfit might be the best place to have a sport tourism department, it does note the city’s efforts to, “… invite the county to jointly fund sporting initiatives have not been favourably received.”
Is one of the reasons because the county did not see much of a return on the Children’s Games and would probably be a bit skeptical of it generating $8.9 million?
The most alarming red flag, under risk analysis, says current, “… resources within the City of Windsor may not be sufficient to manage the additional workload that would result from an increase in events within the city.”
Clearly, Windsor is not ready or staffed to be the free world’s sports magnet. It has a lot of work to do, but first should start with the most important question.
“Can taxpayers afford more pie-in-the-sky sporting events that fail?”
Of course, this has never stopped its council before. After all, there is no off switch on the flow of money it gets from taxpayers.
Robert Tuomi can be heard at 8:30 pm every Monday evening and noon every Wednesday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor is broadcast every Monday and Wednesday to the Windsor and Detroit listening area and streamed online at CJAM.