Apparently the road to sports tourism sustainability is long and arduous and does not involve flash-in-the-pan events. This became very evident in some thoughts assembled by Dr Marijke Taks, the well-known University of Windsor sports management professor and former editor of European Sport Management Quarterly.
Taks detailed her views in a letter to the editor in the Windsor Star on April 14, which, ironically, also happened to be the 55th anniversary of the first meeting held by local Italians from the Friuli region of northeast Italy. It was a very auspicious gathering, ultimately leading to the establishment of the city’s popular Fogolar Furlan club.
The Fogolar has been an outstanding success, evolving from modest beginnings in member John Massoti’s basement. Its secrets were exposed on CJAM’s Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor’s April 14 edition.
Club manager Lou Villalta pinned it down to the universal appeal of the club and its willingness to be very active in the community by hosting a variety of events, including fundraisers and weddings.
Windsor, on the other hand, has been a rather abject failure at sports tourism, something the Francis council will most likely never admit. A council starved for attention has put the city in a money losing disadvantage. It has also associated itself with an organization which does not share Canadian values.
Most of Windsor’s events involve covering the costs of FINA swimming events. FINA is not above honouring despotic sheiks from a country accused of human rights abuses.
Apparently, this does not bother the city’s councillors who see nothing but glitz in swimming. Sadly, they actually did themselves in by building, at considerable expense, a downtown natatorium too small for even a short FINA championship.
Millions are now being readied to lavish on a pop-up pool in the main bowl of the east end arena for a one week here today, gone tomorrow swimming meet, which insiders say doesn’t even attract an abundance of the best swimmers.
The modus operandi of the council is considerably distant from what Taks recommends. In her mind, the best approach is to go for sensible shoes, so to speak.
In a nutshell, Taks suggests the city would do best by attracting events that fit with local resources, so no new costly construction is needed.
She further reasons the, “… economic impact of an event reaches its optimal level when the host city or region has the necessary resources that are required to host an event, in other words it’s a balancing act between the available resources (people, money and facilities) and the resources needed to stage the event.”
She concludes that smaller sized events are much more preferable compared to multi-million dollar escapades of dubious value. Attracting a long list of smaller, less costly events, which are able to fill the city’s calendar all year, can create sustainable sports tourism.
Windsor, of course, has some work to do. It does not have enough good sporting venues.
In 2014, it had to host a scaled down Ontario Summer Games because of its lack of facilities. It could have fixed that with the $21 million it is wasting on FINA; deplorably, much of the money is leaving the city.
Those who think it is not a waste may want to honestly examine the benefits in January 2017.
The Fogolar, on the other hand, has made itself attractive enough to fill its halls almost on a daily basis year round. Windsor, if it listens to Taks, can do the same with sports tourism, but it has to wash the glitz out of its councillor’s eyes and settle down to do some hard work.
Unfortunately, hard work is not glitz, so it is doubtful it will happen.
Robert Tuomi can be heard at noon every Thursday co-hosting Talkin’ ‘Bout Windsor on CJAM 99.1 FM. Listen on demand to previous episodes or catch the discussion live and join in. It is also streamed online at CJAM.