Bass tourney facing hurdles

The Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship has reached a crisis stage.
This great community event experienced staggering losses this year, and for almost half of its life has lost money. The directors who spend countless hours holding the event for the community were given a complete scare.
This past year, the tournament faced the perfect storm.
It lost a key volunteer with the passing of Ron Erb, who looked after the site, and the chairman, Tom Fry, had to take on added burdens to both erect and tear down the waterfront site.
The board went into the tournament with incomplete staffing and, as a result, some areas of tournament management were non-existent as people were not on board to fill the roles.
The tournament faced an unexpected $18,000 increased cost of security to protect the AbitibiBowater wood yard and be able to park anglers’ boats there. That increase came on top of increased costs for policing by OPP officers.
Attendance dropped off dramatically for Wednesday and Thursday evening, and those losses in revenue contributed to the overall loss.
In order to secure a licence to operate a bar on site, the Liquor and Gaming Commission has insisted that paid police be present. This year, for a first time, the Rainy River Walleye Tournament also had to pay for paid policemen on site.
That has jeopardized that tournament, as well.
Since its beginnings in 1995, the FFCBC has seen its costs rise. With the downturn this year in the economy, cash sponsorships declined by almost $14,000. The directors had anticipated such a decline for 2009, but had not expected such a huge reduction.
Yes, there were some new sponsors, but not enough to make up for those that were lost.
Other sponsorship services provided by businesses also declined and those lost sponsorships had to be replaced by cash purchases.
Despite the cool weather, the fishermen had a great week. They saw another face of Rainy Lake, struggling to catch fish, but had a lot of fun. They look forward to returning.
The remaining members of the board made some clear decisions last Wednesday evening. They would like to see another tournament and festival for the community, but they realize that without a full and committed board of directors, another tournament shouldn’t proceed.
They realize the present location at the Sorting Gap Marina is the best one—and gives Fort Frances a unique tournament and festival.
But they also realized setting up the facility on the waterfront costs between $30,000-$40,000. As such, moving to the Memorial Sports Centre next year would make the tournament much more affordable.
The directors realize the pool of volunteers, who number over 300 and create the community atmosphere for the fishermen, is diminishing as the volunteers experience burn-out. Anything that reduces the workload on volunteers is welcome.
The purpose of the tournament originally was to promote tourism on Rainy Lake and be an economic development tool for the community. As a result of the tournament, Rainy Lake is recognized as a top bass lake in North America and more recently as an excellent lake to catch walleyes on.
In turn, resorts are filled with fishermen from the opening of the season through to the Thanksgiving weekend.
The Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship faces many hurdles in the next few weeks. Other tournaments in the region also are facing funding problems and the loss of volunteers.
Every community where a tournament currently exists will have to consider its social and economic value to the community and region.

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