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.

Steve Wad­den

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.

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