Kelowna will turn into a hockey hub from May 22 to 31, 2020 when it’s the host city for the Canadian Hockey League’s national championship tournament — something it hasn’t been since 2004.
Tom Dyas was in Calgary Tuesday for the Memorial Cup bid announcement, as chairperson of the bid committee that included Bruce Hamilton, Gavin Hamilton, Anne-Marie Hamilton, Mayor Colin Basran and Harvey Hubball.
“What an incredible honour it is to be standing here today to know that the Kelowna Rockets will host the 2020 Memorial Cup,” Dyas said, from the podium where the announcement was made.
“We cannot wait to welcome hockey fans to a unique event and that there hasn’t been like it anything else before it.”
Among the main criteria for teams bidding to host the Memorial Cup is guaranteeing a substantial financial return to the Western Hockey League and having adequate infrastructure in place, such as the arena and hotels.
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Hamilton, the Rockets president and general manager, said with the Rockets footing the bill for the season-end championship, the club will offer a kickback of somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million to the WHL.
Local economic spin-off may be even greater.
With restaurants, hotels and other businesses in high demand for 10 days, it’s estimated the 2020 championship will pump a minimum of $12 to $15 million into the local economy.
Non-game events in the 2004 event included tents, displays and kiosks surrounding the arena, creating a bona fide, festival-like atmosphere and Hamilton said the Rockets plan to up the ante in 2020.
“We want to sell it as an entire downtown event,” said Hamilton. “We’ve included Tourism Kelowna and the City of Kelowna’s parks department (in the bid)…. they will be a part of making the event a bit bigger than it was in 2004. We want to spread it out beyond just in front of the arena, throughout the downtown. We envision Stuart Park having something, as well as the bandstand behind the Delta Grand.”
The idea, explained Hamilton, is that the tournament will become an event for the entire city to revel in.
“There will only be so many tickets for sale, so we have a whole group of people who won’t be in the building and we want to build an atmosphere outside so they will feel like they are a part of it,” he said.
Mayor Basran said that the next budget will include $225,000 for Memorial Cup events.
“It will be used for community events and to make sure it is welcoming to all residents,” he said.
“I think it’s fantastic. This is going to be a tremendous event, we will be showcased on a national stage and it will be a great boost to our local economy.”
And, at the heart of it all is the Memorial Cup, a trophy that is steeped in Canadian tradition and history.
“The trophy is 101 years old this year,” Hamilton said. “It’s in remembrance of soldiers in the early wars. It has a military component to it.”
And as the tournament has matured over the years, it’s been able to capture attention in a way that many others of its kind have not, by knitting together this country in sport.
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