A calculation, based on the same methodology, or similar, to that used to gauge the economic impact of the FINA swimming event in December 2016, suggests the just completed Windsor Bright Lights brought millions of dollars into the city’s economy.
Nowhere was the impact more noticeable than at Devonshire Mall. Once the lights ended their run, traffic at the mall declined dramatically.
To figure out how the spending of over $11 million, most of it taxpayer money, to fund rich swimming organization FINA’s short course swimming event, the city called on the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance. The Alliance used the Sport Tourism Economic Assessment Model, known as STEAM.
STEAM showed the so-called world class swimming contest, held in the east end arena because the downtown aquatics centre was too small, brought in $32 million in local economic advantage based on the money spent by 5,877 spectators, who paid to see the contest over its six day run.
Bright Lights ran much longer, 32 days in total. The city estimates that attendance was 60,000. With more than ten times the number of spectators, no STEAM test is needed to calculate that Bright Lights generated at least ten times what FINA did.
This is a tidy $320 million on the economic impact ledger.
During Bright Lights, Devonshire Mall witnessed a tsunami of visitors. Parking was at a premium at the mall for almost the whole Bright Lights run. Two days after the lights went dark in Jackson Park, the mall was largely empty.
Store clerks, overheard in the hallways, were talking about how quiet the place was.
Of course, to get such unsustainable economic development, the city did have to pay $1.5 million for the light show, but unarguably much less than the costly FINA swim meet. Unfortunately, the city might have paid too much for Bright Lights.
It is possible, given the technology employed was old fashioned and even outdated. Workers actually strung wires embedded with lights over many of the park’s trees. Stringing is time consuming and labour intensive.
Newer technology, such as laser lights and holograms, needs no costly stringing. A single laser light can be installed in less than a minute.