SHOW­ING POOR SPIRIT

Ed­mon­ton-hosted event at Grey Cup forced to find new venue as rev­enue de­clines

Ottawa Sun - - SPORTS - TERRY JONES tjones@post­media.com @sun­ter­ryjones

ED­MON­TON — Maybe if the Ed­mon­ton Eski­mos had not de­cided to veto Ot­tawa’s Log­ger Sports team from us­ing their chain­saw to cut a wood cookie off their log as a touch­down cel­e­bra­tion at the 2015 Grey Cup due to “com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage” …

Maybe if the Eski­mos hadn’t de­feated the Red­blacks in the Grey Cup and then taken Ot­tawa’s of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Ja­son Maas as their new head coach …

Maybe then Gerry Haracsi, the new chair­man of the Spirit of Ed­mon­ton, wouldn’t be headed to the na­tion’s cap­i­tal this week to com­plete a deal to move the Spirit of Ed­mon­ton into a bar — ac­tu­ally the com­bi­na­tion of two bars and two tents ac­com­mo­dat­ing about 1,100 cel­e­brants — in­stead of the usual ho­tel ball­room.

His­tor­i­cally, the Spirit of Ed­mon­ton it­self has been the epi­cen­ter of most Grey Cups, book­ing the largest ho­tel ball­room in the host city and invit­ing all fans to wear their gear and come to­gether as one and en­joy cel­e­brat­ing Cana­di­ana in the tra­di­tion of the Grand Na­tional Drunk.

Re­cently, how­ever, the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tees and the CFL it­self have been book­ing the prime lo­ca­tions and the Spirit has been forced to look else­where.

“With re­cent poor lo­ca­tions and de­creas­ing rev­enues in small sta­dium edi­tions of the Grey Cup, the Spirit has suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant losses for the first time in our his­tory and we feel the need to part­ner with an out­side or­ga­ni­za­tion in Ot­tawa,” he said.

This year, to be­gin a new era un­der a new vol­un­teer ex­ec­u­tive team, the Spirit of Ed­mon­ton has de­cided to lo­cate to the epi­cen­ter of the Ot­tawa scene at the ByWard Mar­ket en­ter­tain­ment district and get cre­ative to set up there with the main floor Low­er­town Brew­ery and the up­stairs Sens House Sports Pub and to plan the lo­gis­tics in­volv­ing the in­cor­po­ra­tion of two tents, front and back. The an­nual Spirit of Ed­mon­ton Break­fast will be held in the Mar­riott Ho­tel but will only be able to ac­com­mo­date 650.

And while the 6-0 Eski­mos head to Ot­tawa with the idea of re­turn­ing to play in the Grey Cup Nov. 26, the Spirit of Ed­mon­ton is headed to town do all the plan­ning to pro­vide a sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent show be­fore re­turn­ing to the Ed­mon­ton 2018 Grey Cup to re­turn to the tra­di­tional for­mat.

“We’re hav­ing to re-eval­u­ate where we go and what we do in the cities with the smaller sta­di­ums and where the num­ber of peo­ple trav­el­ling to the Grey Cup is maybe re­duced for a num­ber of rea­sons,” said Haracsi, the Spirit mem­ber re­plac­ing Keith Keat­ing as chair­man.

“In Ot­tawa there just Ed­mon­ton Grey Cup com­mit­tee chair­man Gerry Harasci at Kelly’s Pub in Ed­mon­ton. Harasci is or­ga­niz­ing the Spirit of Ed­mon­ton events to be held dur­ing the 2017 Grey Cup. wasn’t a ho­tel ball­room large enough. The CFL and the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee had them all booked. Any op­tion was to small for the cost,” said Haracsi, who is tak­ing over the or­ga­ni­za­tion run so suc­cess­fully for two decades by Bruce Keltie along with new co-chair Mark Cur­tis.

The Spirit is a not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that lost a com­bined $160,000 at the last two Grey Cups in Win­nipeg and Toronto. In Win­nipeg it was largely due to a lousy lo­ca­tion out­side of the down­town area. In Toronto it was be­cause of a lousy Grey Cup that few fans came from around the na­tion to ex­pe­ri­ence and lo­cal fans chose to ig­nore it.

“Toronto wasn’t suc­cess­ful last year for any­body,” said Haracsi.

Ot­tawa, while still not sold out yet, looks to be a suc­cess.

“We’ll have our tra­di­tional live en­ter­tain­ment on both floors up­stairs and down. The roof isn’t high enough for the Eskimo cheer­lead­ers to do their aeri­als. And, while we’ll have our usual hot tub full of beer, the bar staff will serve the drinks,” said Haracsi who added the ex­ec­u­tive need to find $40,000 of spon­sor­ship to avoid a cover charge for the first time in the his­tory of the won­der­ful pro­mo­tional ve­hi­cle for Ed­mon­ton and the Eski­mos.

“We’re look­ing at it as an op­por­tu­nity to ex­per­i­ment this year. I think there are some things we need to change or at least look at chang­ing,” said Haracsi.

But ex­pect Ed­mon­ton 2018 to look sim­i­lar to the 2010 Grey Cup here with the event likely head­quar­tered in the Westin, and both a Fri­day and Satur­day break­fast at the Shaw Con­ven­tion Centre, ac­com­mo­dat­ing 2,000 each.

“The Spirit of Ed­mon­ton has been a big part of the Grey Cup scene for a long time now and we don’t want to see that change,” said Haracsi. “We may just have to tweak it here and there now and again to make sure that Ed­mon­ton re­mains proud of what we do and the fans at the Grey Cup en­joy mak­ing us a key com­po­nent of their Grey Cup ex­pe­ri­ence.”

IAN KUCERAK/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

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