by Alex Kinsella | February 2022
Sports connect us all. Whether you’re a player, a fan, or a coach, the thrill of the game brings us together on pitches, courts, fields, and the ice. We love competing. We love winning. But most of all, we love the connections that playing sports can create.
Youth and amateur sports competitions can be sources of some of our best memories. Travelling to a different city, staying in a hotel, meeting other athletes, and building new friendships that can last a lifetime. But while it’s great to travel, it’s even better to host exciting competitions and tournaments right here at home.
Waterloo Region’s Sport Hosting Office (SHO)
Bringing those world-class sporting events to Waterloo Region is the job of the Sport Hosting Office (SHO), a joint effort by the cities of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo, Explore Waterloo Region, and the Regional Tourism Office 4 (RTO4).
Leading the team to bring sporting events to Waterloo Region is Allister Scorgie, Director of Sport Hosting at Explore Waterloo Region. He’s a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University’s kinesiology program and studied Sports Business Management at Algonquin College in Ottawa.
After finishing school, Scorgie worked for the Canadian Paralympic Committee in Games Operations before moving back to Waterloo in 2020 to join the Sports Hosting office. Working with the Canadian Paralympic Committee was an experience that Scorgie says gave him insights into how sports organizations look at potential cities and venues.
“I worked on five Paralympic and Para-Pan Am Games, starting with Sochi in Russia in 2014 all the way through Lima, Peru in 2019. We operated the Athletes Village for Team Canada, including all the logistics, flights, team clothing—all of that,” Scorgie said. “Then this job opened up (in the Sport Hosting office) and I loved how it was the other side of sporting events. Instead of trying to do the events as part of a team, I’m on the host side and working to bring sporting events here to Waterloo Region.”
Hosting Sporting Events in Waterloo Region
Scorgie started on the SHO team at an interesting time for event organizing—February 2020. The last two years have presented numerous challenges for everyone, and Scorgie has used the time to build relationships with sports organizations across Canada and the U.S. as we’ve all navigated the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scorgie said that planning in the pandemic has been a challenge. Large sports competitions are typically planned out years in advance, especially at the provincial and national levels.
“Sometimes you’re looking four or five years in advance, and with the pandemic, it’s been difficult for everyone involved to think that far ahead. Most venues and leagues have been worried about what’s happening next week or next month.”
Looking forward to a time when restrictions aren’t in place, the Sports Hosting Office is planning for events in 2023 and beyond.
“We want to have events to look forward to, so that means we have work to do now,” Scorgie said.
Waterloo Region was set to host the Canada Soccer U15 Nationals in 2020, but organizers cancelled the event due to the pandemic. Scorgie said that event will make it back to the Region in 2023. He added that the Region will host the Canadian Wrestling Trials in March 2023 at RIM Park in Waterloo.
“That’s a new one for us. We haven’t really had wrestling in that tier of competition before. We’ve got a number of local clubs that are really, really strong and it’ll be nice to see wrestling here in at a national level.”
Bringing sporting events to the Region is a collaborative effort. In addition to its city and national partners, the Sports Hosting Office works with local venues and sports organizations to help create the best sites for world-class competitions.
“Everything is built on partnerships. We have great partners at our local hotels and venues—but the key is having great relationships with our local sports organizations,” Scorgie said. “The local clubs, the minor sport organizations—ultimately, they’re the ones who do a lot of the volunteer work and make the events amazing.”
There’s another partner helping bring sporting events to the Region—you. If you’re on the board for a local sports organization, a league convener, or just someone with love for a sport, Scorgie said you’re the best source of ideas for what events to bring here.
“Maybe you’ve had the idea that it’d be great to host a provincial championship, but you’re so caught up in the day-to-day operations of local sport that you can’t really give that the bandwidth that you need to hosting and planning these events—that’s where we come in.”
The benefits of hosting sporting events in Waterloo Region go beyond bringing business to local hotels, restaurants, and attractions. Major sports events can bring in funding for local venues, including fields and arenas.
“Bringing the best of the best from the province and country here has a positive effect on our local athletes,” Scorgie said. “If you’ve been thinking about a sporting event and don’t know where to start, come see me and let’s have the conversation to see how we can move it forward.”
Director of Sport Hosting