$25,000 INDOOR TURF FACILITY report  Lake Superior News

THUNDER BAY, ONTAIRO  November 6, 2018  (LSN)  Included in this post is the cover photo from the $25,000 report taxpayers paid to a consortium of local consultants. This report was never made public. It took a Freedom of Information request to pry it from city hall.

Having read it, I know why administration didn’t want it to become part of the public record. There is in fact no concrete case to be made that an indoor turf facility will be a tourism success.

From a tourism perspective, this project would be yet another “bet” similar to the failed Tournament Hockey Centre. Most of the end-user organizations admitted to the consultants they’d never held an event or tournament sanctioned by their governing bodies. The tourism potential from “events” or “tournaments” is entirely speculative.

$25K is a lot of money to discover most of the potential user groups have no clue about how to generate tourism traffic at the proposed facility. The sad thing is that it’s on top of $106K given by the city to Soccer Northwest to study the same thing. We discover from the new report why that earlier report was a bust.
“Although comprehensive, this report lacked the in-depth stakeholder interviews and financial analysis required to support an Economic Impact Analysis.”

What the new consultants did do was use population numbers for the region and make a guess about how many people, mostly from Northwestern Ontario, would show up to participate at an event.
“Based on the estimates discussed in this report, it is expected that 3,156 athletes and their family members will visit Thunder Bay CMA each year in order to participate and/or attend the sporting activities. Some of the visitors will be from Ontario but outside Thunder Bay, and others will be from outside Ontario.”
$30 million for just 3,156 sports tourists?

I believe this is why city hall staff have pivoted to a request for proposals from the private sector for an “interim” indoor facility somewhere other than Chapples Park. (City hall staff have acknowledged that the “interim” facility may indeed become the permanent solution.)

Administration realized as a tourism bet, the indoor turf facility is a loser. We’re just too remote from other population centres and have too few people living in Northwestern Ontario to make this a project that the Ontario government could support. Ontario has made it clear that it will only pony up money for the $30 million project if it generates tourism. By any metric, 3,100 sports tourists isn’t worth the investment of that much money.

Let us hope that a much more modest, private-pubic proposal will come forward. It won’t be a tourism bet. It will be built for local users. It will be one that re-uses an existing building or a much less-expensive option at a different location than Chapples Park.

By Shane Judge
Candidate for Mayor  2018 

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by Lake Superior News / Lake Superior Media.