On February 21, 2019 the Canadian Football League announced the Saskatchewan Roughriders will host the 2020 Grey Cup. Rider Nation rejoiced—not only do we (un)officially declare ourselves the face of Canadian football, but this will be the first Grey Cup to take place at the world-class, open-aired Mosaic Stadium, and yet another well-deserved notch in the belt that is Saskatchewan hospitality.
On the heels of this announcement came another equally exciting reveal: the 2020 JUNO celebrations will be hosted by Saskatoon. This week-long celebration will include numerous musical and cultural events throughout the city, bringing musicians, celebrities and everyday Joes to the streets.
The JUNOs first came to the province in 2007. Saskatoon was the first “small” city to host the event, and boy, did we have a party. Regina had its turn in 2013, and the capital city did more than just embrace the festivities—one could say the numerous volunteers and committees it took to host the event set a new standard going forward. With the JUNOs returning to Saskatoon, the head of the Canadian Academy of Recording Artists (CARA) described the city as having an “incredible cultural scene, and an incredible music scene.”
For some of us who can remember a time in Saskatchewan history when events of this magnitude just did not take place, we embrace the “about time!” feeling brought by the dedicated individuals and organizations who work endlessly to ensure our hospitality is recognized around the world.
So, what is it about the province that attracts large scale national and even international events?
The province’s central location is desirable. It’s easy to get to from any part of Canada or North America. Saskatoon’s and Regina’s international airports welcomed 1,518,180 and 1,238,239 guests last year, respectively. Getting downtown from the airport is quick and easy—especially now with the welcoming of rideshare companies. The number of hotel rooms available in each city has increased dramatically in recent years—more than 4,500 in Saskatoon and 3,900 in Regina—which helps attract the larger events to the regions. Saskatoon’s inventory of world class event space comes in around 800,000 square feet, providing ample space for whatever event imaginable.
Regina’s Evraz Place is a 100-acre “campus” for sports, business and entertainment productions operated by the Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL). Tim Reid, REAL CEO, says Evraz Place has created “a catalyst for economic development and an impact for tourism.” More than 3.5 million people visit Evraz Place each year. Roughly one in 40 jobs in Regina are because of the campus, and it’s got a $425 million impact on the province’s GDP.
The economic impact of sports, business and entertainment productions is impressive. More than two million visitors flock to Saskatoon each year, dropping up to $600 million in the local economy. The bid to attract the 2020 JUNOs was a $1.7 million fee paid to CARA, of which $350,000 came as a grant from the City of Saskatoon. After the festivities, the city should see between $10 to $12 million in economic spinoff.
The amount of planning that goes into events such as Grey Cup and the JUNOs is long, but worth it. The work of every volunteer who contributes time and energy into pre-event and post-event activities is a contributing factor as to why this province is attracting more and bigger events each year. Reid points out, “We have a remarkable volunteer base. When we can get people to our city, we can tell a really strong story, as we witnessed with the LPGA, the Memorial Cup, or the Brier or how we’re going to see with the Heritage Classic™ coming this year and the Grey Cup coming in 2020.”
Later this year—October 26, to be exact—the Queen City is bringing the 2019 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™ to Mosaic Stadium at Evraz Place. Reid says, “This opportunity will have four hours of live international television coverage to four to eight million viewers. Having those eyes on our community and the value of having the opportunity to tell our story the right way creates a level of awareness that only major events can do.”
It’s not just the large-scale, world-class events that drive the Saskatchewan hospitality industry. Let’s not forget about the regional and city-based events that take place year after year, with faithful attendees scheduling time in their calendars to take part. Farmer’s markets have dedicated clientele. The corner pubs host local bands and their fans. Community centres are booked with everything from job fairs to craft shows. It’s pretty safe to say that Saskatchewan is a social province that never turns down a chance to throw a party.
What does all of this “eyes-on-us” attention mean for the big picture? “[These events] afford us to create great awareness around our province, our region, and our city,” says Reid. “Discussions around major events, they’re all conversations about revealing yourself on a regional, national and international stage.”
Revealed … check. Delivered … you bet. The rest is up to us to sit back and enjoy the party.