City of Leduc council has approved the city’s first Sport Tourism Master Plan and intends to use it to maintain its status as an elite sport tourism destination.
Presenting the plan to council at its regular meeting Oct. 14, Paul Blais of Miller Dickson and Blais, said Leduc was one of the first municipalities to jump into sport tourism, thereby creating a unique niche for tourism, but they’ve got competition now. “In part, because of the success of Leduc other communities have jumped on the bandwagon. Leduc needs to step up its game to remain competitive.”
The ten year plan will look at ways to foster partnerships, create a hosting policy, promote Leduc as a sporting destination, build Leduc’s capacity to deliver well managed and sustainable sporting events and establish a destination market fund. In the last five years, more than $10 million has come into Leduc via sport tourism. Leduc started hosting regional events and has added provincial and national events. Now, Blais suggests they look at non-traditional and offseason events to keep the dollars coming in. This could include more events like Fragapalooza (the country’s largest video game festival which saw over 800 gamers fill the Leduc Recreation Centre), or an air rifle competition, archery competitions, more Firefit competitions and dog shows.
“I would love for us to be thinking of these non-traditional events,” said Mayor Greg Krischke.
Blais said the most important key to Leduc’s success in sport tourism is to secure financial stability. “This is an important one. It’s a way of being able to stretch your budget and bring stronger events that increase economic development to the community.”
Council already puts $100,000 into the Sport Tourism Reserve annually, but Krischke said they may have to look at increasing that amount so there is reserve they can draw from while they look into putting together a Destination Marketing Fund with local hotels. Councillor Glen Finstad said council tried to establish one a number of years ago but saw a lack of interest on the part of local hoteliers. “We need to encourage it,” agreed Councillor Dave Mackenzie, “But this isn’t something that can be forced.”
Councillor Bob Young said looking for alternative funding for major events is challenging for everyone and hopes that providing good facilities, supported by attractive amenities, will continue to draw people to Leduc. “We don’t have any mountains or lakes to attract people here. I think we found our niche,” he said. “We have to keep upping our game and finding new ways to do it.”
The new Sport Tourism Master Plan is aligned with the 2014-2018 Leduc Strategic Master Plan through the Community Character and Economic Development goals. “The sport tourism industry is becoming more competitive, especially for Leduc, as we’re seeing other communities challenging our status as a primary sport destination in this province,” said Krischke. “This plan will guide us and future decision makers in capital, funding and logistical support of sport tourism events and initiatives.”