For nine days last March, the impact of the Tim Hortons Brier was plain to see.
Hotels in downtown St. John’s and throughout the city were booked solid at a time of year when they normally experience sluggish occupancy rates.
Mile One Centre and the Brier Patch, the curling championship’s pre-eminent party venue, were alive with activity day and night.
And those not able to get into the big party at the St. John’s Convention Centre filtered throughout the downtown, where they patronized the many bars and restaurants.
“Anybody that was around during that week would have seen the impact,” says Mayor Danny Breen, who was a ward councillor at the time. “The place was hopping.”
But what was the true economic impact of hosting the Canadian men’s curling championship, considered to be among the marquee annual sporting events in the country?
The Telegram gained exclusive access to the economic impact study undertaken by the Canadian Sport Tourism Association (CSTA) on behalf of the Brier host committee and Curling Canada.
The report, compiled and authored by CSTA economic impact consultant Tony Fisher, indicates the Brier was worth an estimated $10.1 million in economic activity to the province, with $9.1 million of that benefiting the city of St. John’s.
(Comparatively, the men’s world curling championship held in Edmonton in April had a value of $6.7 million to Alberta and $6 million to the city.)
To generate its estimated figures, Fisher used the refined CSTA Sport Tourism Economic Assessment Model Professional Version 2 (STEAM PRO), which incorporates the event budget and capital expenditures by the organizers and other stakeholders with spectator survey data collected at the venue.
In the case of the St. John’s Brier, 479 persons agreed to complete a survey that sought to determine where they were coming from and how many draws they were attending, and asked questions about their satisfaction with the event. Those determined to be out-of-town spectators — meaning they travelled more than 40 kilometres to attend the Brier — were also queried about the length of their visit and spending while in St. John’s.
“It’s a little bit daunting to hold something like the Brier in St. John’s in early March,” says Fisher. “I was a little concerned that you might not get the same level of visitation that they’d hoped for, but it turned out those concerns were unfounded as 27 per cent of the people came from out of province.”
Moreover, 48 per cent of the seats at Mile One Centre were occupied by out-of-town residents.
“That’s a really solid number,” says Fisher. “When I do these studies, I always expect, depending on the event, between 25 and 50 per cent to come from outside of the host community, so seeing that level of support was fantastic.”
Fisher says the estimated $10.1 million figure is likely higher, due largely to the freakish windstorm that wreaked havoc on the second-last day of the spiel.
“We do all our surveying through the week and into the final weekend and then you guys got a storm that hit right at the end, so people, especially those from off the island, end up staying for an extra day or two.”
Breen said the number also doesn’t factor in the promotional value to the city and province.
“When you look at the advertising on TSN in terms of just the shots going across Canada, those things are pretty powerful,” he says. “It’s basically free advertising that to otherwise buy would be significant.”
And it seems the newly minted mayor has an eye toward more sport tourism events in the future.
“I think it’s one of the fastest-growing segments of the tourism market in the country and we have the facilities and the capacity to host more major events and we’re certainly out looking for those events right now.”
Brier by the Numbers
Initial Expenditure: $7,165,022
• What the organizers spent to host the event and what tourists spent
Economic Activity: $10,080,701 (province)
• Measurement of the turnover of money in the local economy, including the cost of hosting the event
• $9,075,293 (St. John’s) and $12,174,645 (Canada)
Gross Domestic Product: $5,202,534 (province)
• The value of all the new goods and services produced, less the cost of making them. A measurement of new economic activity
• $3,970,102 (St. John’s) and $6,208,363 (Canada)
Attributable visitor spending: $3,833,167
• Using a scale of one to 10, one meaning the Brier was not a factor in their decision to travel to St. John’s and 10 meaning it was the primary reason, and assigning it a score based on 100 percent, found that 89 per cent of visitors were here for the Brier
• Highlights: $1,147,533 on accommodations, $1,175,237 on restaurants (including Brier Patch), $696,180 in transportation to St. John’s, $323,204 on shopping
Employment: $3,376,928 in wages and salaries supporting 56 jobs (province)
• A reflection of how jobs were supported by the revenues from the Brier as opposed to created as a result of the event
• $2,676,176 supporting 46 jobs (St. John’s) and $3,931,858 supporting 63 jobs (Canada)
Tax revenues: $2,166,240 (Canada as a whole)
• Everything from GST, to hotel taxes, to payroll taxes and social security payments made by employers
• $143,298 (St. John’s), $1,049,480 (Province), $839,373 (Ottawa)