It was a huge deal for Chilliwack when it won the chance to host the 2018 RBC Cup.
Now an economic impact study from Hockey Canada shows that record-breaking spinoffs from last year’s Junior A hockey championships in Chilliwack totalled more than $2.5 million for the local economy.
Those stellar economic results, along with the crowning glory of the Chilliwack Chiefs winning the cup, met the extremely high expectations of organizers, said Alison Colthorp, Tourism Chilliwack executive director, and host committee official.
“It was what we were hoping for as a host committee,” Colthorp said.
“It really touched the core of why we did this, and it showcased the real value of collaborating on an event of this magnitude.”
The economic impacts totalled $2,547,598 for the local Chilliwack area, and $3,693,052 nationally, according to the study’s economic impact assessment.
Comparitively, the Chilliwack spinoffs, at the city level, were more than half a million dollars higher than those seen the last time the RBC impact was studied by Hockey Canada, which was in Summerside, Prince Edward Island in 2013.
In Chilliwack’s case, collaboration and partnerships were absolutely key.
“From the very beginning, it was very important that this was going to be a community-led event,” Colthorp pointed out.
They had a trio of presenting partners, several sub-committees, and more than 220 volunteers. City of Chilliwack, Ts’elxwéyeqw Tribe management, and Tourism Chilliwack reps led the event co-ordination effort, and Vedder Transportation Group, was the financial guarantor.
The considerable community support established early on during the host community bidding process, was sustained all the way through to the closing ceremonies, Colthorp said, adding that securing a financial guarantor made the difference for the organizers, as did the partnerships.
Positive social connections and interactions also factored in to the successful financial results.
“We are proud of these numbers, however the socio-economic impacts far surpassed our expectations as well,” Colthorp said in her report.
The excellent feedback they received from players, coaches, fans, families, volunteers and the media, was heartening for the organizers.
“Chilliwack has always been a hockey town at heart, but now our nation is able to see our pride and passion for it,” Colthorp said.
RBC Cup host committee co-chairs were Chief Dave Jimmie and Mayor Ken Popove.
Squiala Chief Jimmie, who leads the Sto:lo Nation Chiefs’ Council, and is president of Ts’elxweyeqw Tribe, said he was not surprised to hear how well Chilliwack fared in terms of the spinoffs to local businesses.
“The impacts were pretty significant. In some ways was it was expected since we were aiming to be the best and have the most successful event ever,” Chief Jimmie said. “As far as economic impacts and ticket sales we had set our goals quite high.”
From building a solid relationship with the Chilliwack Chiefs, and working with community champions, to the introduction of the Ts’elxwéyeqw third jersey design during the Cup, it broke new ground in terms of bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities together for the purposes of the event.
Colthorp pointed out that Chief Jimmie ensured all aspects of hosting the Cup in Chilliwack also raised the profile of the history of the Sto:lo people in the region and reinforced unity as a community.
From the RBC motto flying on banners: “Lets’mot – One Mind” with its inclusion of a Halq’eméylem, to the player gifts, the opening ceremonies, third jersey design and many other aspects, “it was a very powerful message that we are one in hosting the Cup,” she added.
The host committee came away from the experience convinced that it takes “an entire community” to put on a major event like the RBC Cup, and confident in its ability to host more major events in future. They’ll be seeking other events that fit the community profile to a tee, like the RBC Cup did.
The incredible achievements realized by Chilliwack and area was clear recognition of all the hard work put in by the RBC host committee, said Brian Coombes, president of Chilliwack Economic Partners Corportation.
“They put together a fantastic event, and not just the games themselves, but all aspects surrounding the RBC Cup,” Coombes noted.
Big-scale events and tourism have the potential to stream new money and visitors into the local economy, and when you’re talking about a major event like this, held during a shoulder season, it provides some great opportunities.
“When people come to Chilliwack to spend some time and money it circulates and helps diversify that economic foundation of Chilliwack,” Coombes said.
Partnerships forged in the wake of the RBC event were innovative, and will hold them in good stead for future.
“And who could have scripted it better than to have the host team win?” Coombes said. “That was like the cherry on top.”
Studies of previous RBC Cups showed the overall economic impact was $1.9 million for the community of Summerside, PEI, the host city in 2013. A total of $2.2 million was reported in terms of spinoffs for the City of Dauphin in Manitoba in 2010, with 2,250 overnight stays recorded during the RBC Cup.