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Kingston trying to become top Canadian sporting destination

By Candice-Rose Gagnon [1]

BELLEVILLE – Kingston has had a rich history in hosting important sporting championships and events, and the city is trying to honour that by making Kingston a top sports tourism destination.

The city has played host to the 2013 Scotties Tournament of Hearts women’s national curling championships, 2014 World Junior Hockey exhibition games and hockey camps, and this past January, the 2015 Canadian Skate Nationals, which brought in over 250 athletes to that event alone.

“The last 10 years have really shaped Kingston’s sport tourism industry,” said Brandon Pickard, sport tourism development officer for Tourism Kingston [2]. “We’ve really became more formalized in more recent years, where we can target and attract events that come to the city.”

Pickard said the city of Kingston has been working hard to bring in different sporting events from around the province, country and the world.

“There is no other city like us in Canada that is putting out so many international and national world championships,” he said.

That sport tourism strategy has also been named by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance [3] as being one of the top in Canada.

Having a sport tourism strategy in place is important for events to make money and to be economically feasible for host cities, says sport tourism expert Marijke Taks, a professor in the kinesiology department at the University of Windsor.

“Cities can benefit from sports tourism if strategically planned,” she said.

Taks says that there is a tremendous amount of planning when it comes to event planning on a sport level. Resources the event may need, infrastructure, facilities and repairs are aspects that cities must take into consideration before hosting a sporting event, she said.

“That means you need an event portfolio, and you need to carefully select the events, when you host them, take into the account the resources that they need, and then come up with a strategic plan for one or five years, where you have a wide variety of different kinds of events smaller scale, medium size. And if you plan it well, I think a city can thrive on sport tourism,” said Taks.

Kingston has a long history of national and international sporting events based on the water. Famously, in 1976 it held sailing events at the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour as part of the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics.

This year, the DN World Cup Ice Yachting [4]competition was also held on the St. Lawrence River. The city is quickly turning into a four-season sailing sport destination, says Pickard.

As for what is next, he says he is looking at new sports and events to bring to the area. There are a number of provincial championships planned for next year in cross-country running and basketball, but the city is always looking to diversify.

“We have a great BMX track, one of the top 10 in North America, and (we are) trying to get more events on that track and bring in more people into the city to come and discovering our area,” said Pickard.