The Prince George Cougars want to see the 2013 Memorial Cup at CN Centre.
In order for that to happen, they’ll need more fan support.
The strongest message the Cougars sent out during their first Memorial Cup bid meeting on Wednesday at CN Centre is that without an increase in ticket sales, their efforts in landing the tournament will be unsuccessful.
Mark Miller and Mike Doran, 2013 bid co-chairs, Cougars vice president Brandi Brodsky and general manager Dallas Thompson addressed questions during the meeting, held prior to the Cougars’ home game against the Portland Winterhawks. They stressed that the city has every other key ingredient to hold a successful Memorial Cup – the venue, the hotel accommodations and a competitive Canadian Hockey League (CHL) franchise.
The bid team is targeting a minimum season-ticket increase of about 1,000 for the 2011-12 season for their bid to get serious consideration, and in order to meet their timelines in the bid process, they need to see that support over the next few weeks. They’re aiming to attract at least 1,000 more spectators per game than their current average, meaning between 2,800 and 3,000 is required.
“The more we get, the stronger message we send,” Miller said.
Prince George’s ability in host successful national sporting events in the past has been well documented. The list includes the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association men’s basketball nationals and Road to the Roar pre-Olympic curling trials in 2009, the RBC Royal Bank Cup national junior A hockey championship in 2007. They’ve also secured a reoccuring international sporting event with the World Baseball Challenge which, coming off its inaugural competition in 2009, returns this July.
But the biggest event of them all, the holy grail of sports competitions for the city, comes in 2015 with the Canada Winter Games. It’ll be the most significant sports event in the city’s history.
The Memorial Cup would also be a major financial boost to the city. Figures from past tournaments put the economic impact in the tens of millions of dollars. As part of the bid package for Prince George, it was noted that the final figures from Kitchener, Ont. in 2008, had its economic impact at $15 million.
The championship tournament for the 60-team Canadian Hockey League, the Memorial Cup alternates annually between its three member leagues, the Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior, and Ontario Hockey League. The bid team sees the Memorial Cup as a way to enhance preparations for the Canada Winter Games, and vice versa.
“(The year) 2013, we think it goes hand in hand. But 2016 wouldn’t work, so the next time this comes around is 2019 really,” Thompson said. “I think being two years in front of the Canada Games is a different position and a better position than a year out, not even a year out.”
But the attendance has been a sour point. Asked if she sees the bid process as a means to increase attendance, Brodsky said it goes hand in hand. She stressed the timing of the bid, calling it a great time to try and land the competition.
“The bids that are put forward (in Prince George), they’re fantastic, and I think the bid on its own that this city could put forth would be second to none” she said. “But what I am worried about happening and I don’t want to happen is that we have this fantastic bid, there’s five, six teams that are putting a bid forward and they just go and just look at attendance and make that be an easy out, an easy criteria to say Prince George isn’t going to make it now because this is an easy one.”
The committee outlined its deadlines for the bid. April 1 is the deadline for them to send in a letter of intent. By May 15, they’ll send in a six- to 10-page application package at which point, if there’s more than five teams, a shortlisting process will begin. The list will be reduced to a few hopefuls later this spring and the winner will be announced on Oct. 15. This marks a new process for the CHL and Western Hockey League to determine its Memorial Cup host.
The Cougars are in the process of setting up a security deposit through Ticketmaster, in which the public can pledge money when purchasing tickets. They’ll also be offering pro-rated prices on season tickets with a portion of the money going towards charities, part of a partnership with the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation. Twenty per cent of the purchase price will be donated to one or all of eight charities of choice.
“Come out to the games, come out and support the team and we can use that to leverage ourselves in this bid,” Brodsky said. “We have to do that in order for our bid to move forward, and it’s something that is pretty easy for people to do. There’s some pretty good hockey being played here. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of.”