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CARHA – Halberstadt’s Vision Pays Off!

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CARHA, let’s face it, for Canadians, hockey is in our DNA.

From Fredericton to Kelowna, in every province and territory in our great Dominion, Canadians of all ages and gender live and breathe “The Good Ol Hockey Game”. The late Stompin Tom Connors’ unofficial Canadian national anthem raucously belts out in arenas across the country, “Oh! The good old hockey game, Is the best game you can name; and the best game you can name, Is the good old Hockey game!” And for Windsor that means CARHA!

And sadly, for the first time in 46 years, there will not be a single Canadian NHL team in the hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup in 2016.  This hasn’t happened since 1970. But not to despair Windsorites, because beginning April 3rd and running for the entire week, Windsor is home to CARHA – Canadian Adult Recreational Hockey Association World Cup.

This event runs every four years and the City of Windsor went head-to-head with St. John, New Brunswick and Québec City to be compete for this year’s hosting honours – and came out the victors. With a guaranteed $750,000 commitment, Windsor and Essex County residents welcome the world to Windsor- Essex this week.

What exactly is the CARHA World Cup? As described on their website, “Every four years, over 120 teams from 15+ countries will travel to the Host City [Windsor] for this week long event. It’s been labeled the “Olympics” of rec hockey and since its inception it has grown to be the largest international adult rec hockey tournament in the world.”

The participants of this tournament and their family and friends who form their entourage pay their own way in terms of travel, accommodation, and team entry fees to participate. This is a refreshing change from some of the higher profile sporting events our city has gone after where travel and accommodation have been subsidized by the host city.

The players, both male and female, range in age from 19 years to 70+ years and will be treated to some of this area’s best ice arena facilities in the country. Games will be played at the WFCU Centre, South Windsor Recreation Center, Tecumseh Arena and LaSalle’s Vollmer’s Culture and Recreation Complex.

Caesars Windsor is the host hotel and will be Hockey Central for the weeklong events, many of them in the Augustus Ballroom. Imagine the look on the faces of our guests as they look out their hotel room windows for the first time and see one of the great skylines that Canada has to offer.

Windsorites have always been known for their hospitality and friendliness, and this week should be no exception as close to 5000 visitors will be wandering our downtown streets. You might want to brush up on your foreign languages as teams will be arriving from Russia, Latvia, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany, Italy, as well as many more European countries, in addition to teams from across Canada.

As a side note, this past week CARHA announced a cash donation of $2500 to Rob and Nancy Campana for their annual “Run for Rocky” (Biz X is a proud sponsor) run this April, an event honouring the memory of their son and benefitting Windsor Pride’s outreach and programs. What a great gesture by CARHA in expressing their gratitude for all of Windsor’s hard work in hosting their tournament.

We owe a debt of gratitude to former councilor and Biz X columnist Alan Halberstadt,  who during his tenure with the previous Windsor City Council, tenaciously lobbied in favor (city administration recommended NOT to support this event) of securing the CARHA tournament.

With another international sporting event scheduled for Windsor in December 2016 – The FINA 25 metre Short Course World Championship – there was initially a lack of appetite for going after CARHA. Some on council feared having two world class sporting events in Windsor in the span of 12 months would weaken each of the events in terms of sponsorship dollars and volunteer recruitment.

But Halberstadt’s dogged determination won the day. The Council eventually committed to $750,000 to CARHA to cover the costs of ice rentals and the opening and closing ceremonies of the tournament. In many ways, this investment appears to be a real bargain when compared to some of the past and future sporting events Windsor has been, and will be, involved with.

Besides a week’s worth of accommodations and dining here in the city, the beer sales alone from these ‘beer league’ hockey players should spell an economic boom to some of our downtown watering holes.

Before the re-jigging of Windsor’s ward system in 2010, Halberstadt was one of the two ward councilors in Ward 3. His future successor, Ward 3 Councilor Rino Bortolin, appears to have received the torch from Halberstadt in terms of promoting sports tourism more on the local level and for the average Canadian.

Although Bortolin voted against the hiring of a sports tourism officer earlier this year, he is keenly aware of the impact and financial benefits of hosting events such as CARHA and the upcoming OFSAA Track Championships in June.

For a $10,000 investment by the City of Windsor, in excess of 2400 student athletes – along with their coaches, family and friends – will be spending their dollars at area hotels and eateries during their three-day stay. And countless number of young folk will leave our city with a positive view and hopefully return in future years.

This is the type of sports tourism Windsor needs to embrace. To date, I can’t recall having seen any consequential benefits (long term investments etc.) from our financial investments to the big-ticket sporting events like the Red Bull Air Races, the NFL Super Bowl in Detroit, MLB All Star Game in Detroit and other sporting events. Sure it’s nice and glamorous to be part of world class events such as these, but at what cost to the taxpayer? Really, what tangible returns have we seen for our investments?

Kudos to Halberstadt and his foresight and fortitude to lobby for the CARHA tournament here in Windsor this week. And, hopefully, his vision of sports tourism will continue to be argued for by the likes of Councilor Bortolin and other like-minded Councilors.

When a $750,000 investment can turn into an estimated $16.7 million economic impact, maybe we’re actually on to something here…

Editor’s note: You can read Alan Halberstadt’s 2013 Biz X magazine columns referencing CARHA.

Biz X magazine February 2013

Biz X magazine March 2013

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