The Dryden Observer

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Tournaments an important economic driver

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.

By Chris Marchand

While Old Man Winter has pulled more than his share of accidental tourists off the Trans-Canada this winter, local hotelier Mike Readman says no force of nature can fill up hotel rooms quite like a minor hockey tournament.

Sports tourism is becoming an increasingly important economic driver in the Dryden area. Situated almost dead centre in the far-flung Northwest, the community is a natural meeting point. This kind of convergence results in significant economic activity for local hotels, restaurants and retailers.

“When it comes to the winter I think it’s crucial,” said Readman, General Manager of Best Western Plus Dryden Hotel and Conference Centre. “We do very well when the hotels are filling up with hockey tournament teams. It tends to be a Thursday to Sunday business and that really carries us through what would normally be a very quiet part of the week. There’s not a lot of tourist traffic coming through this time of year. We definitely feel an impact if there isn’t teams in our building.”

Calculating the scope of what tournaments contribute isn’t easy, but Dryden Minor Hockey Association (DMHA) President Brent Silander says that an average of eight to 12 out-of-town teams (approximately 50 people accompanying each) travel to the city for each of Dryden Minor Hockey Association’s seven or eight age group tournaments — an influx of as many as 600 visitors per tournament.

“We fill Dryden up seven or eight times per year,” said Silander. “At the younger ages, it’s not just the son or the daughter coming to town it’s the whole family. During tournaments you look around town and the restaurants are full and business is booming everywhere.”

Last season, DMHA’s ice bill totaled around $100,000 and Silander says the organization is tracking to spend $125,000 in 2013-2014. He says that DMHA still needs to access available ice outside of the community in Eagle Lake and Vermilion Bay on a regular basis.

With Dryden city council reviewing operations at all municipal facilities, Silander says arena facilities represent a far greater economic impact to the community than what the city collects in ice fees.

“We have a nice facility there, I can’t see how that place wouldn’t be viable because we’re spending a lot of money there,” he said. “And we’re not the only ice user group either. There is ringette, figure skating, the Ice Dogs and broomball.”

In January, the Kathy Sanders Memorial Tournament featured 250 players across its age divisions.

“It definitely helps the city,” said Dryden Girls Hockey Association’s Gary Nickle. “The teams are coming from Schreiber, Thunder Bay, Emo, Kenora. Dryden’s a pretty central spot to all of Northwestern Ontario.”

The grand daddy tournament of the season, however, is set to take place March 10-16th as 28 teams from First Nations communities across the Northwest meet in Dryden for an 80-game tournament. Last year’s winning team claimed a cash prize of $25,000.

The Dryden Development Corporation calculates that the 2013 Northern Bands Tournament pumped around $596,000 into the local economy.

While hockey may be the largest winter draw to the community, it’s not the only sport bringing people into town. This past weekend saw visits from swim clubs from across the Northwest. This coming weekend, Timberlanes will play host to a provincial bowling championship.

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