Cowichan Valley Regional District takes aim at sport tourism

Big sporting events bring big bucks to the communities where they are held, and the Cowichan Valley would like a bigger piece of the pie.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District board voted last Wednesday to begin the process of setting up a new body that will encourage sport tourism in the region and actively pursue the hosting of multi-sport events in the area every four to six years.

"Sport tourism is an economic driver," CVRD director Gerry Giles told the board in her capacity as chair of the regional sport tourism select committee.

The 2008 North American Indigenous Games brought $10 million to the community, a number that soars to approximately $23 million when the numbers from Tribal Journeys, which stopped in Cowichan that year in connection with the Games, are taken into account.

The 2005 B.C. Seniors Games brought about $2 million to the community and the B.C. Summer Games in 2018 are expected to net about $2.6 million for the Cowichan Valley.

Indirect benefits of hosting such events include instilling a sense of pride in people, Giles said, and encouraging more people of all ages to get into sports and physical fitness.

"It improves our quality of life," she said.

In spite of the successful bids Cowichan has put forward in the past, the region would benefit greatly by having a permanent body to deal with the details of applying to host such events and helping to coordinate them when they come.

There is also a big need to help the Cowichan Valley’s sport organizations when they host tournaments and events.

"Our local sporting groups are under a lot of stress," said John Elzinga, another member of the committee.

These organizations often have a tough time finding enough volunteers to help with hosting duties and if someone could offer aid in providing hosting packages, a list of available accommodations, or even just help in accessing and providing adequate equipment for all of the visitors would be extremely helpful, he reported.

The committee recommended that the board establish a sport tourism function under the umbrella of the Economic Development authority and that funding not to exceed $55,000 be provided to support the new group, which would be made up largely of volunteers under the direction of a possibly part-time staff person.

Giles said that it is likely that once things get underway, funding for the group can be found from legacies that most multisport events leave to communities after they are finished. The board greeted the proposal with enthusiasm.

"From an economic standpoint, every part of the region is touched [by hosting sporting events]," Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said.

Dir. Ian Morrison, who has just returned from attending NAIG 2014 in Regina, Sask. agreed that the economic benefits are there, especially in a changing Valley economy.

"These are our new dollars," he said. "I’m convinced."

The board endorsed the recommendations, but postponed implementation until a review is done of the Economic Development authority, as Geoff Millar, longtime head of that commission, has announced his retirement.