SHOWING POOR SPIRIT
Edmonton-hosted event at Grey Cup forced to find new venue as revenue declines
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.”