July 20th, 2024

Street hockey tourney planned for downtown next year

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on May 10, 2024.

Herald file photo Players compete in a game of street hockey during a 2018 tournament supporting the Boys and Girls Club. Plans are underway to bring the PlayOn! Canada street hockey tournament to the city's downtown next year.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Next year throngs of street hockey enthusiasts may be flocking to downtown for the PlayOn! Canada street hockey tournament.

On Tuesday, the Economic and Finance Standing Policy Committee of Lethbridge city council agreed to recommend that council rescind a resolution from May 2, 2023 calling for $210,000 cash or in-kind contributions to be funded annually this year, in 2025 and 2026 from the Major Community Event Grant Budget to the Downtown Business Revitalization Zone to host the event.

The recommendation to rescind is because PlayOn! isn’t staging tournaments this year and the $70,000 for 2024 isn’t needed. That money was subsequently then recommended, as reported yesterday, to be used as part of $400,000 in potential funding for the Lethbridge Curling Club to make a bid on the 2026 national women’s championships known as the Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

The revised motion recommends council approve the updated request of $140,000 with $70,000 ($50,000 cash and $20,000 in-kind) be funded annually in 2025 and 26 from the Major Community Event Grant budget to the Downtown BRZ.

The motion also says City funding, which is contingent upon the BRZ receiving matching funding before Jan. 1, 2025 will be provided subject to the execution of a third-party contribution agreement in a form satisfactory to the City manager and it requests council have the mayor prepare and distribute an updated letter of support for the PlayOn! event here.

Sarah Amies, executive director of the BRZ, told the SPC the plan is block off three streets for the three-day tournament which she anticipates will draw 70 teams plus fans and generate $750,000 annually in economic benefits.

PlayOn! Canada couldn’t secure federal matching funding for this year’s events and cancelled all 2024 festivals. However, it has entered into a multi-year agreement with SportsNet on a promotional partnership and it is pursuing other grants as well as sponsorships to run the events next year and in 2026.

According to the BRZ, “a federally registered not-for-profit organization, Play On! Canada delivers the largest national mass participation sports event in Canada’s history. The organization’s management team previously led the “Play On!” program in partnership with the CBC’s hockey Night in Canada between 2003 – 2018, attracting an estimated 2 million Canadians to the 179 events held to date and holding the Guinness World Record as the largest mass participation event of its kind in the world.

“Play On! operated for 15 seasons, suspended event operations in 2018, restructured as a not-for-profit organization, and has safely relaunched nine events across Canada post COVID-19. Play On! supports the organization of street hockey tournaments and encourages getting active.”

For the 2023/24 year, PlayOn! fell short of its funding objectives by 29 per cent, says the BRZ. It was previously funded and promoted by the CBC it hasn’t been able to fund the operation and promotion of PlayOn! since Sportsnet acquired NHL broadcast rights in 2015, says the BRZ.

“Sportsnet and Play On! Canada have more recently entered a multi-year promotional partnership through 2027 conditional on operational funding for the program being secured,” says the BRZ’s amended budget request.

“It is proven to combat youth mental health and obesity trends and is a model in mass participation physical activity for all the world. Play On! Canada events also revitalize downtown communities, generating over $66M in annual economic impact each year. The program creates a sense of belonging for newcomers through sport, provides countless opportunities for girls and women, creates thousands of work and volunteer opportunities annually for all ages, is popular amongst Indigenous peoples, and, ultimately, unifies all of Canada,” says the request.

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