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City may take longer look at sport tourism to make Barrie 'premier' stop

'This plan will provide short-term recommendations for which sport tournaments Barrie should be targeting based on the assessment of the destination,' says councillor
2021-03-08 Gary Harvey crop
Coun. Gary Harvey represents Ward 7 in Barrie.

This city could soon take strides on a sport tourism strategy.

Barrie councillors will consider a direct motion tonight to execute an agreement with the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) to receive $110,000 in project funding in support through the Tourism Relief Fund to complete a sport tourism strategy.

“The sport tourism strategic plan is similar to the tourism master plan, which will provide an assessment of where Barrie is now for sport tourism infrastructure and resources,” said Coun. Gary Harvey, “and recommendations for how to build a sport tourism strategy based on the arenas and sport venues and organizations Barrie has now. 

“Which sports events we should go after that matches our assets in the short-term, and what we need to do in the long-term to be a premier Ontario sport tourism destination.”

Harvey says winter sports tournaments, from November to April, have a $6.3 million in economic impact in Barrie. He is counting six tournaments, most hockey, although there was also one baton-twirling event.

“This plan will provide short-term recommendations for which sport tournaments Barrie should be targeting based on the assessment of the destination,” said the Ward 7 councillor, “which is what Tourism Barrie needs for direction on the best places to invest the MAT and tourism resources.”

The municipal accommodation tax (MAT) reserve banks a four per cent levy on room rates at Barrie hotels, motels and AirBnBs, shared between Tourism Barrie and the city.

“The (sport tourism strategic) plan will give us an inventory of the (city’s) assets,” said Harvey, who is council’s representative on Tourism Barrie. “This dovetails perfectly with the Sadlon Arena review.”

Last December, council decided the city will pay half the cost of an $85,000 consultant to assess sport tourism’s needs and growth opportunities at Sadlon Arena. That $42,500 came from the MAT reserve fund.

Last August, Barrie councillors also looked at resizing Sadlon Arena, approving a motion that city staff report back to them before completing and submitting a grant application for the Ontario Community Building Fund's capital stream to expand the Bayview Drive facility.

It would involve a three-storey addition on the north side of the building, including a new grand entrance to the arena with additional multi-purpose/trade show space, ticket booths, concessions, a multi-use sports bar, additional office and retail space, and possibly a new home for the Barrie Sports Hall of Fame. It could also include additional dressing rooms, player dining and lounge facilities, medical facilities, storage and meeting space, a media lounge and VIP lounge, a new sound system, an upgraded green room along with additional spectator seating to bring its total to about 5,000.

Harvey has said Barrie has not seen a great deal of sport tourism in the last decade, losing out to cities like Thunder Bay and North Bay for some large events, especially curling. He has said most events are worth between $6 million and $20 million on average to the local economy, sometimes more. These events can include not only curling, but hockey and figure skating. 

Harvey’s direct motion on a sport tourism strategy will be considered for final approval Monday night by city council.