March of the tourists
CBRM plays host to two basketball championships, a music festival and conference, and the biggest adult hockey tournament in the world
SYDNEY — Late February and March — usually a slow time in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality — will be bustling this year as the area plays host to two basketball championships, a music festival and conference, and the biggest adult hockey tournament in the world.
Hotels, restaurants and other local businesses are expected to be busy during the Subway Atlantic University Sport mens and womens basketball championships, East Coast Music Awards, Festival & Conference and Molson Canadian Coors Light Vince Ryan Memorial Scholarship Hockey Tournament.
Kirk MacRae, a Subway restaurants owner, figures the four events will be a big boost for local businesses at an off-season time of the year.
“Some of the hotels will probably be busier in March than they are in August,” said MacRae, who is also in charge of the corporate ticket campaign for the basketball championships. Subway is also a major sponsor of the AUS. “It’s tremendous,” he said. “There is not a facet of the business community that shouldn’t be in some way touched in the next month by all these events. Shopping and all those wonderful attributes, and it’s a great thing to show off the community.”
MacRae hoped there would be an opportunity to host future AUS championships if the area does a bang-up job this year.
Richie Warren, founder and chairman of the Vince Ryan tournament, said in addition to 2,700 hockey players on some 141 teams from across Canada and a few from the U.S., thousands of other visitors travel to Cape Breton to enjoy the fun.
Cape Breton University athletic director John Ryan also figured the women’s championship would, in addition to the players, bring many family members and fans to town.
“We are looking hopefully at probably around 1,000 people per night at the Sullivan Field House for (the women’s championship) and on the men’s side of things we are hoping to maybe hit 5,000 at Centre 200.”
Event chair Eric Favaro sees a big economic impact from the East Coast Music Awards, Festival & Conference, which he estimates will be in the range of $3-$5 million.
“Besides the delegates who come to the conference, there are all those people who come to hear the music and, of course, all the artists who come as well.”
Favro noted some 40 music industry executives from around the world will be at the festival looking to sign up artists, which will also have an economic impact.
At Destination Cape Breton, where CEO Mary Tulle says tourism is everybody’s business, the basketball championships, ECMAs and hockey tournament are seen as a good news story for the entire Cape Breton economy.
February and March are the kind of winter months when people may be leaving for vacations in warmer climates, she said. Instead, thousands of people will be coming to the area.
Hotels and other accommodations, food and beverage businesses, entertainment venues and other services and stores will benefit. “It is totally a rising tide.” Joyce MacDougall, president of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce, said the four events will be a economic boost at a time of year when sales are slow in many areas.
The events will also introduce people to the Sydney area who may return as tourists or who may pick it as a place to hold a conference in the future, she said.
Barbara Vanderwyst of Sweet Biscuit Bath & Body on Charlotte Street in Sydney, adjusts a musical mannequin in a window display inspired by the East Coast Music Awards, Festival & Conference, Wednesday. Local businesses expect an economic boost over the next month or so as the municipality hosts a number of marquee events.