By Jensen, Randy on June 3, 2020.
City council has postponed debate on funding a potential bid to bring the Tim Horton’s Brier to Lethbridge in 2022 until the next council meeting on June 15.
During Monday’s public meeting councillors heard a presentation from Brier 2022 Bid Committee co-chair and Lethbridge Curling Club GM Kirk Mearns, who asked council for $1 million in “cash and in kind” support for the event.
The “in kind” portion would come from council agreeing to provide access to the Enmax Centre and Soccer Centre for the full week of the event at no charge to Curling Canada. The Enmax rental and staffing cost would be about $320,000 and the Soccer Centre would run about $80,000, he estimated. The $600,000 cash portion would have to come from City reserves, he acknowledged.
“Of the other $600,000 (needed), Curling Canada is already promising to book at least $250,000 in hotel rooms, which would be at least another $150,000 worth of meals, social and all of that,” Mearns explained. “It is really not a million dollars Curling Canada is putting in their pocket and walking away. This money will all end up back in our city. We will get a lot of benefit from it.”
Mearns pointed to the documented economic benefits derived from the most recent Brier held in Kingston earlier this year, which estimated the event generated about $10-$15 million in spin-off, as a good reason to support a 2022 bid.
“Most of those numbers are driven off of ticket sales, and when they do 97,000 tickets the numbers roll off of that,” he explained.
“There is no reason why we couldn’t do that. If we can do 69,000 tickets for the Men’s World, it is an indicator we could sell out a Brier and sell out every draw of a Brier.”
“We are not looking for a million dollars next week,” he reminded councillors. “It’s 2022. It’s down the line, and it’s an area where all councils and all cities are looking at how can we support our communities a year and a half from now when all this COVID pandemic has come home to roost (economically). We think the Brier is a great way to do that.”
Councillors Belinda Crowson, Blaine Hyggen and Joe Mauro all felt they could not justify spending a million dollars on this type of event with the City’s and taxpayers’ finances already shaky coming out of COVID-19, and indicated they would vote against the motion.
A particular stumbling block for most on council was the fact the fund holding money set aside for major event hosting only had $355,000 left in it after several high-profile events have depleted it in recent years. That would mean City staff would have to find money for the remainder of the $245,000 needed from other sources in the City budget.
Coun. Mark Campbell sponsored a motion to table further discussion on bidding for the event for an additional two weeks while staff explored alternative funding options. Campbell’s motion was supported 6-3 by council, meaning City staff will return to council on June 15 with its findings.
“The resolution was asking for administration to go and see if there is way we can come up with a million dollars for a bid for the Brier in 2022,” explained Campbell after the vote. “We are certainly in difficult times with COVID. There are a lot of people who would believe this would be a great injection into the community. As many of our colleagues have said, the Brier is the Super Bowl of curling; so it is going to be a huge event.”
Campbell admitted it was a tough decision council would have to make weighing the financial challenges of the present with the economic needs of the future.
“That becomes literally the million-dollar question,” Campbell said, “where you put the money into it and the economic feedback it turns into. Kingston (in 2019) made in the $12 to $15 million range, and not to mention how TSN brings a lot of recognition to the (host) city. And as we said, Lethbridge knows how to do it. We have volunteers. This would be the fourth major curling championship we have hosted to rave reviews around the world. It certainly puts Lethbridge on the map.”
“The million dollars; that’s a tough one to swallow,” he admitted, “but maybe we can find a way to get it done.”
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