The city of Lloydminster expects to be on an economic breakaway for eight days in May.
Hosting the RBC Cup for junior A hockey supremacy in Canada May 14-22 will bring some much needed economic relief to the city hard hit by low oil prices.
“It brings a lot of people into the community to help support the celebration of junior hockey in Canada,” said Mayor Rob Saunders.
He said he hopes all the hotels and restaurants will fill up during the five team tournament with hundreds of visitors expected to attend the action at the Centennial Civic Centre Arena.
The hometown fans will be in spending mode as long as the host Bobcats from the Alberta Junior Hockey League stay in contention.
An unfathomable celebration and spending spree might break out if the Bobcats win it all.
Last year the Portage Terriers won the national championship at home in Portage la Prairie.
“There’s lots of remedial spinoffs to the community as far as people are visiting and spending money,” said Saunders about Lloydminster being a host city.
“I’ve heard people coming from B.C. and Manitoba already just to spend the week here with us.”
Hosting the RBC Cup fits the city strategic vision to become a destination and host city for major sporting or cultural events.
“We’re continually making applications to host events,” said Saunders.
“In particular, the Bobcats stepped up and really did a great job with some support from our economic development corporation and the city to put together a winning bid to host the RBC Cup.”
The RBC Cup follows the still memorable Hockey Day in Canada celebration that Lloydminster hosted in January 2014 with national TV coverage.
Saunders said that kind of exposure for the city is invaluable.
“People I run into in other provinces, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and B.C. especially, are still asking about our Hockey Day in Canada,” he said.
“They realize it was quite a success.”
He said it puts us on the map and it creates “a top of mind recognition” for our city across the country.”
The overall impact of the RBC Cup has yet to be determined of course, but Saunders expects the fallout to be just as positive and widespread as Hockey Day in Canada.
“It is a national event once again where there is a lot of interest right across the country,” he said.
“Of course, the product that’s being delivered is a very high level brand of hockey and with some of the best junior hockey teams in the country.”
Hosting the RBC Cup will strengthen Lloydminster’s reputation as a city that thrives on pucks and sticks just as much as oil and agriculture.
“We are recognized as a hockey town for sure in more ways than one,” said Saunders.
“This just solidifies it with hosting the RBC.”
Saunders said what he finds exciting about it is that young people get to experience another major national event and get to participate in it as well if they choose to go to the games and be part of it.
As for his role, Saunders said back in a mid March interview that he would be at the rink as a fan for sure.
He also expects to participate in some of the ceremonies that would become clearer to him in the lead up to the event.
“We haven’t seen the agenda yet and the final agenda and the ceremonies and functions that I will be involved in,” he said.
As the city’s top official at the games, Saunders said his top priority will be to create a life long experience for the athletes, the players, the coaches, management and teams.
He also wants it to be a world class experience for visitors and showcase the city and what it has to offer.
Acting as a tourist guide, he’s suggesting visitors enjoy a stroll at Bud Miller All Seasons Park and drop by Lakeland College for a tour and visit the Lloydminster Exhibition Grounds as well.
“If they haven’t visited before, this is an opportunity for us to showcase our city as a whole,” said Saunders.
As part of his media messaging during the RBC Cup, he’ll also be talking up the city’s diverse economy and growth.
“We’ve got some big operating entities and the opportunities for jobs in this area – just the growth of our city,” he said.