Orillia, which helped “revitalize”the Ontario Winter Games for youth in 2018 and also won the right to host the massive event again in 2020, is now turning its attention to an older demographic.
On Monday night, Mike Ladouceur, the city’s manager of tourism, asked council committee to allow the municipality to bid for the 2023 Ontario 55+ Winter Games.
Councillors seemed to think it was a winning idea and approved the concept. The decision must be ratified at Monday night’s council meeting.
Ladouceur told councillors how the “successful” 2018 Ontario Winter Games for youth generated $4.2 million in economic impact and spawned $1.1 million in visitor spending.
That massive event, which involved 3,000 athletes, earned the city $170,000 in profit, which will be used to purchase a video board for the new Orillia Recreation Centre.
The city is hoping the 2020 games will be a similar success; it will be even larger as 3,500 athletes are expected this time and more sports are being offered.
City staff contemplated bidding for a third youth games, but decided that wasn’t the best idea.
In his report to council, Ladouceur noted the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport (MTCS) “will be inclined to move the event to a new community to inject new life” into the games.
“The MTCS has indicated ... there will be strong competition for the 2022” event.
In addition, Ladouceur said there is concern about volunteer and sponsorship fatigue in hosting “such a large-scale event” for the third time.
The city has already submitted non-binding letters of intent to host the 2022 Youth Ontario Winter Games, the 2022 Ontario 55+ Summer Games and the 2023 Ontario 55+ Winter Games.
But staff recommends pursuing just one of the events.
“Each event on its own would be a major coup for the local tourism industry and would solidify Orillia as a strong sport tourism city,” noted the report to council. “However simultaneously bidding and hosting more than one event of this magnitude could yield a negative impact.”
Staff suggested bidding for the 2023 Winter Games for seniors would “provide Orillia with the strongest possibility of success of being awarded a major multi-sport event.”
The event would bring a different demographic to Orillia and would feature about 1,000 athletes over the age of 55 competing in a variety of sports, while generating an estimated $1.5 million economic impact.
“This new demographic may present Orillia with a new influx of volunteers and sponsors,” noted Ladouceur.
The decision was made to pursue the winter games - and not the summer event - because the March event would be more beneficial to hoteliers and the tourism industry.
Ladouceur noted it would be very difficult to host the summer games as that is when local hotels, restaurants and amenities are at or near capacity.
Hosting the winter games, however, "would stimulate the economy and would allow Orillia to continue hosting major multi-sport events within the province,” concluded Ladouceur.