MAJOR SPORTING EVENTS ARE RETURNING AND SO IS SPORT TOURISM
BY ALEX KINSELLA | APRIL 2022
Waterloo Region’s Kitchener Memorial Auditorium was in the spotlight on March 23 as it welcomed more than 50 of Canada’s top hockey players to the Kubota Top Prospects Game. The historic hockey venue, known as The Aud to locals, was filled with hockey fans from across Canada who came to catch a glimpse of tomorrow’s National Hockey League star players.
For Allister Scorgie, Explore Waterloo’s Director of Sport Hosting, the game is another step towards welcoming more world-class sporting competitions back to Waterloo Region. Scorgie said the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers organization worked hard to bring the much-watched competition to the region.
“All credit to the Rangers, they were the ones who went out and got that. Joe Birch, their new Chief Operating Officer, is very committed to hosting these types of events,” Scorgie said.
Events like the Kubota Top Prospects Game can bring thousands of people to the region, benefiting hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality businesses. Scorgie said that the game had a significant impact even though it was a shorter event.
“We had every NHL club in town. General Managers, assistants, scouts — it’s a very big surge in economic activity and hockey related business. It leverages The Aud, which is a great venue for sport,” Scorgie added.
The Aud was originally built in 1950 and is one of Canada’s most storied sporting venues. It’s played host to the Memorial Cup Championship, the 1986 IIHF World Championship, figure skating competitions and is also home to the National Basketball League of Canada’s Kitchener-Waterloo Titans. The Aud is also where you’ll find IBL baseball with the Kitchener Panthers.
“Events like the Kubota Top Prospects Game bring up conversations about events like the Memorial Cup coming back to Kitchener. I think it bodes well for the future,” Scorgie said.
Scorgie is excited to welcome two other significant sporting events to Waterloo Region this year — the Ontario Volleyball Association Championships at RIM Park in April and a new flagship tournament to the PGA Tour Canada season at Deer Ridge Golf Course.
The Ontario Volleyball Association Championship is the largest sporting event in Waterloo Region. In April, the event brings 20,000 players, coaches, and cheering parents to RIM Park. Scorgie said the competition is the single biggest driver of hotel business in the region, along with significant increases in hospitality and foodservice businesses.
“You’ve got around 150 teams each weekend with 3,000 athletes each weekend. RIM Park is essentially shut down. It’s just a huge event,” Scorgie said.
This year’s championship is the first one back in Waterloo Region since the pandemic’s start. Events of this size are always a significant lift for the team, and Scorgie said the team at the City of Waterloo has been working around the clock to ensure the event’s organizers have everything they need to make it a success.
“It’s been a challenge to plan for with the changes to protocols for masks, vaccine passports, capacity, and restrictions. It’s a little surreal, but it’s great to see it coming together,” Scorgie added.
THE COMMUNITY CARRYOVER
The PGA Tour Canada event is new for the region and Deer Ridge Golf Course. The 18-hole course was designed by award-winning course designer Thomas McBroom and is ranked #31 in Ontario by Fairways Magazine and #32 in Canada by the Globe and Mail. Waterloo Region’s last major golf event was the Manulife LPGA Classic in 2017.
Attracting the PGA Tour Canada to Waterloo Region does more than support the hospitality sector. Scorgie said supporting local charities is a significant focus for the PGA Tour Canada and that five organizations here will receive funding from the tour. Having the tour at Deer Ridge benefits other local courses, training facilities, and leagues in the region.
“The tour is looking at running clinics around the region. It’s great for the golf community,” Scorgie added.
In addition to golf clinics, Scorgie said Explore Waterloo is working with the City of Kitchener, the City of Waterloo, and local courses on events where local golfers can attempt to qualify to play in the tournament’s Pro-Am.
“These events help connect with the local golf community and are great ways to find volunteer opportunities for the tournament,” Scorgie said.
Whether it’s golf, hockey, volleyball, or whichever sport you’re passionate about, Scorgie said Explore Waterloo is ready to bring more major sporting events to the region. The Hometown Advantage program works to bring national and international events and conferences and is powered by local leaders.
“We need those people in the community who either have the idea, have the ability to support it, or know someone who works at the provincial, national, or international level to bring events like these to Waterloo Region,” Scorgie said. “We have great golf courses, we have great diamonds, fields and rinks — we’re ready to host.”
Director of Sport Hosting