Ideas plentiful at meeting on sports tourism

Joey Payeur

Every long journey begins with one step.
The district began its path towards more economic viability with a sports tourism planning session hosted by the Rainy River Future Development Corp. last Wednesday evening at the Copper River Inn here.
Tara Allaire, the RRFDC’s development co-ordinator for marketing and events, was thrilled to see about 30 interested members of the public, many representing local recreational organizations, on hand for the meeting.
“The turnout was great,” she enthused. “It was nice to see how much interest in this there was.
“We got a lot of good info going into the next step.”
That step involved forming a committee to look into further development of sports tourism at a town council meeting in the near future.
That committee eventually will report to the town’s Economic Development Advisory Committee later this year.
Wednesday’s session, which was facilitated by Fort Frances Times’ publisher Jim Cumming, began with a list of community and regional recreational assets being compiled.
“I was surprised with the number of assets we came up with,” conceded Allaire.
“Usually people sit around and say there’s nothing to do,” she noted.
“But once we started compiling the list, it became clear that we are quite lucky for living in such a small area to have that much available.
“When you’re talking about having four arenas within six km and three golf courses within 10 km, there’s lots to work with,” Allaire said.
A roll call on current sports tourism activities ranged from larger events like the International Dragon Boat Festival and the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship to kayaking and judo.
“One thing that kept coming up was people wanting to know how to market their events properly, and get the information about them out to the public,” noted Allaire.
She liked the idea put forward of a community calendar being created that was easily accessible, including being available online.
“It could be a matter of simply that people don’t know that this is all going on,” Allaire said.
Those on hand then came up with an assortment of barriers they believed were stifling sports tourism.
“One theme that certainly came up was the lack of volunteers,” Allaire remarked.
“We don’t have the numbers around here, and the same people are volunteering over and over again and getting ‘volunteer burn-out,’” she noted.
“We have to find a way to get everyone on board and figure out how to attract new people as volunteers,” Allaire stressed.
Plans on how to overcome barriers touched on a wide-ranging collection of solutions, many of which focused on the need for a more co-operative spirit on a number of fronts.
“It kept coming up about how we need to form partnerships and work together on events,” said Allaire, citing this year’s tandem of the International Dragon Boat Festival and Relay For Life set for Saturday, June 25.
Tasked with coming up with new activities (a summer hockey tournament for youth, adults, or both), or current activities that could expanded upon (the dragon boat festival), the group touched on one concept that intrigues Allaire.
“We see groups from here going away to run in such events as ‘Tough Mudder,’ ‘Colour Run,’ or ‘Run Or Die,’ where the structure is already in place,” she remarked.
“It’s not outside of the realm of possibility to hold something like that here.
“These are more inclusive events where you might run five km, but it’s not ultra-competitive and whether you’re five or 80 years old, it’s something you can go out and do to be active,” Allaire reasoned.
Another idea was creating an information brochure that could be distributed at various recreational events in town.
“It could be as easy as slipping it into the program for the event,” Allaire said.
“It could tell you where to eat, where to shop, and it benefits everyone in the community.
“If people eat food at local restaurants, it puts dollars in our community,” she reasoned.
“If they shop on Scott Street, better for us.”