Baseball fans are congratulating the Dawgs on winning their first Western Canadian Baseball League championship in 10 years. It was a terrific climax to another successful season at Seaman Stadium.
Walking home from the game, I got thinking about how it, and our other top-notch sports facilities are contributing to a transformation of Okotoks from a bedroom community to the best-equipped venue for youth sports tournaments in the province.
The Okotoks Recreation Centre is home to the Curling Club, with more than 650 members and a junior program that’s closing in on 100 participants.
In January, people from across the province will converge on the Okotoks Recreation Centre for the 2020 Scotties Women’s Provincial Championships, providing a nice mid-winter economic boost for our town. The rec centre has also hosted events as diverse as indoor professional rodeos and Chamber of Commerce trade shows, all of which attract visitor dollars. Then there’s the Pason Centennial Arena complex. Besides being home to the Okotoks Oilers, it has hosted trade shows, conferences, weddings, and the nationally televised Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling. The Crescent Point Field House hosts indoor soccer tournaments for kids from across Alberta. Two of my grandchildren played on teams which won provincial indoor championships there last spring.
The BMX track is on the Alberta race circuit and is also used as a training facility by visitors from across the region. And the new Meadow Ridge School on the north side is equipped with basketball courts that will host province-wide school tournaments
The potential economic impact of these facilities has not been lost on either the town council or the Okotoks Chamber of Commerce.
They know the short-term benefits - full hotel rooms and restaurants - help the economy, but also realize there is much more to be gained.
Just look at what’s happened to another progressive town south of the border. Over the past few years, Rockford, Illinois has built a multipurpose arena, a golf course, a campground, a tennis centre, softball and soccer complexes, campgrounds, and a BMX track, a water ski show area, rose gardens, and a greenhouse. Not only are these tremendous for the locals, but they also attract regional competitions, and also encourage participants to stick around for a bit.
So not only does Rockford now host tennis, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and baseball tournaments, but the athletes and their parents tend to enjoy the additional amenities, and even occasionally return on non-tournament weekends.
Okotoks town council’s approval of a plan to create a downtown Arts and Learning Campus adds an expanded Library and a Performing Arts Centre to its already-potent list of “Numerous Things To Do In Okotoks.”
It’s another step in the transformation of Okotoks from a predominantly residential community into a regional centre for sports, culture and education, all of which provide opportunities for continued growth.
“Tournament Town”, Alberta – has a nice ring, doesn’t it?
Dick Nichols writes about business every month in The Western Wheel.