Students boosted by mayor's sports tourism talk

A number of kinesiology students left class yesterday with an inspirational boost after Windsor’s mayor told them about all the untapped potential in the rapidly growing sector of sports tourism.

Sara Kella

Sara Kella.

“It was so motivational, it’s not even funny,” enthused Sara Kella, a fourth-year kinesiology student who will soon begin an internship in Toronto with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. “It really gave me a lot of encouragement, because a lot of people I talk with feel like there aren’t a lot of opportunities.”

Eddie Francis was invited to speak to about 30 students in professor Laura Wood’s fourth-year sports tourism class. He told them he never expected his job would have anything to do with sports when he was first elected in 2003, but since then, he’s realized it’s a billion-dollar industry that supports thousands of jobs.

Armed with some statistics for the occasion, he said sports tourism pumped $4 billion into the Canadian economy last year, and $2 billion of that went into Ontario. Since 2008, sports tourism grew nationally by 8.8 per cent, he said, making it the only sector within the tourism industry to grow at a significant rate.

“What I’ve learned about the industry is that it is untapped,” he said. “You guys are in the right program at the right time. There is a strong demand for your skill set.”

The third-term mayor spoke about his sudden thrust into sports tourism when Detroit was awarded the 2006 Super Bowl shortly after he was elected. He met with organizers and convinced them that Windsor should co-host the event, giving it a truly international flavour.

“The NFL was able to create an experience on which we were a value-add,” he said. “The fans loved it.”

Chloe Grayson

Chloe Grayson.

Since then, he said, the city has capitalized on the industry by either dovetailing with Detroit events like Indy car races, the MLB All-Star game at Comerica Park in 2005, or by hosting events like WWE WrestleMania in 2007, the Red Bull Air Races and the World Junior Under-17 hockey tournament held here earlier this year.

Francis said there are a number of events on the horizon in Windsor including the 2013 International Children’s Games and if the city’s bid is successful, hosting the FINA international swimming championships in 2016 or 2018. He extended a personal invitation to the students to get involved with organizing events, noting that the city could benefit from their expertise and that it would valuable learning experience for them.

“If you want behind-the-scenes experience, let me know,” he said. “If you’re interested, I need help. You guys know this stuff and we could benefit from your perspective. We need the brain power and we need the expertise.”

Chloe Grayson, a fourth-year communications student who enrolled in the class to learn more about event marketing, said she might take him up on the offer, adding that she too was encouraged by his lecture.

“I thought he was really informative,” she said. “He gave us a lot to think about that I had never really considered before.”

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