Don Crisall’s vacation musts while in the Okanagan includes a stop at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton.
“It is a chance for some of the fans who may not be able to see Canucks games or maybe the Flames to see a little bit of NHL hockey to come,” said the Edmonton native, who was catching the Oilers and Flames game on Wednesday night. “I came last year and enjoyed it. I have been taking in golf, just enjoying the atmosphere and the weather. It’s a great place to vacation for sure and I would love to see the tourney come back here.”
The feelings are mutual for the city’s tourism industry. Penticton’s economic development officer, David Arsenault, said the Young Stars tournament last year generated about $2 million in economic activity for the City of Penticton — a welcome addition for tourism operators as it extends the busy summer season into the fall.
While teams mainly stayed at two hotels in Penticton, media, some staff and fans filled up other rooms throughout the city.
“A lot of accommodators had good numbers this week when traditionally it would be pretty dead. Really it is a mid-week event, Sunday through Thursday, so hotels are pretty empty this time of year,” said tournament organizer and city Coun. Andrew Jakubeit.
While the players held a strict schedule that restricted what kinds of activity they could do, many of the general management, scouts and other staff took in plenty that Penticton has to offer including wine-touring, playing golf and shopping. Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster sent a letter to tournament organizers thanking them for the warm welcome and the service the Flames young stars received at a team dinner at Lost Moose Lodge.
Social media like Twitter and Facebook generated a lot of traffic mentioning Penticton and the young stars, but it was mainstream media that really showcased the city. Over 100 accredited media attended the tournament and two games were aired on Sportsnet.
“The announcers were raving about not just the building, but Penticton. They were saying how beautiful it is and how people should come check the city out. That kind of exposure is hard to measure, but you can’t really buy that. There was a sports tourism commercial that ran on all their webcasts and they had a very high following on the web,” said Jakubeit.
One thing organizers were a bit disappointed in was the lower attendance that some of the games had compared to last year’s tournament. Despite that, Jakubeit said he believes the rookie tournament had one of the best showings out of all the ones NHL teams had the past few weeks. He estimates the average attendance of Penticton’s young stars games at 2,000 people.
“We still had better attendance records than all the other young stars tournaments with communities that are significantly larger than us, for example Kitchener. We still should be proud of that fact. Some of the Toronto scouts were saying how they had maybe 1,500 people when the Leafs were playing and maybe 500 for the other teams,” said Jakubeit.
The Penticton organizers hope that the tournament will continue to run here in the future and Jakubeit said they will be sitting down with the Vancouver Canucks next week to go over the possibilities of that happening.