If we don’t project an image of who we are to the rest of Canada, others will arbitrarily come up with their own ideas. The concept of the tournament capital of Canada says something positive about ourselves and Kamloops.
So far, attempts to project Kamloops’ character have been moderately successful. We have promoted ourselves as home to Kami, the famous fighting trout. Other ideas never quite caught on, like Spoolmak Days (Kamloops spelled backwards).
Visitors to Kamloops find a friendly people, spectacular vistas, and pleasant climate. But left to chance, many Canadians will think of us a place that nearly burnt down this summer. Or a pulp-mill town. Or some place in the Okanagan. Or in the absence of anything else, “Fruitloops.”
Why leave our image to chance? The boast of “Tournament Capital of Canada” may seem immodest but it’s an idea worth supporting. It’s a good idea because it projects an image of wholesome outdoor activity. With our close proximity to lakes and beautiful natural surroundings, it’s an accurate image.
But in “Super, Natural” B.C., it’s not enough to advertise just magnificent vistas and the great outdoors. We need to tell others what is unique about Kamloops. Tournament capital is not an idle boast because we already host a number of national and international tournaments.
Few Canadians outside Kamloops will question that we are the tournament capital of Canada. They understand that it is a marketing technique. Is Coca Cola the “real thing”? No one even asks.
In a legal sense, we are the Tournament Capital of Canada (TM). Our city planners have been clever enough to register the slogan and logo as legal trademark. We are the “Tournament Capital of Canada” because we say so and because it’s our legally registered trademark. Anyone else making the claim will see us in court.
The Tournament Capital of Canada may seem like a far-fetched idea but so have other successful ideas. How do you think that a small prairie city of 50,000 reacted, in 1912, to the idea that they spend $5 million (in today’s dollars) on a Wild West Extravaganza?
Despite opposition to the idea, the Calgary Stampede is a winner and Calgary is Canada’s fastest growing city. Does anyone doubt Calgary’s claim to the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth?” When visitors are enjoying themselves and spending millions of dollars, who cares?
Unlike games with cows and horses, tournaments are something that I can get enthused about. It’s not that I am a big sports fan. But the idea of athletes running around in the great outdoors suggests fitness. It’s downright wholesome and the kind of image Kamloops can honestly project.
And if not sports, then what’s the alternative? Realistically, there’s not much else that fits. A lot of other themes have already been taken. For example, the country’s first UFO landing pad has already been claimed by St. Paul, Alberta.
The finances have been carefully calculated. The proposed sports complex will cost each household property (not each person) $39 a year, based on an assessment of $150,000. Wealthy citizens will pay more. Business will add their share. The city will borrow $37.6 million at 5.95% for 25 years. The annual cost for the loan will be $3 million but that will be reduced by $1.3 million through existing budget funds, Byron McCorkell told me. The remaining $1.7 million will be paid by homeowners and businesses by increasing taxes by 1% per year up to 3%.
With a bit of luck, federal and provincial governments will reduce our share. “This is a conservative estimate,” said McCorkell, Director of Parks and Recreation, “It may even cost less.” The maintenance costs will stay about the same through economies of scale, and through the use of solar and geothermal technology. Also, UCC will pay to lease the new facilities.
Of course, I would prefer that my $39 went towards social programs. But that’s not going to happen. If my $39 is not spent on the sports complex, it would not go elsewhere. And I already give thousands of dollars to the government of B.C. for social programs, which is mostly a lost cause.
The image of Kamloops as the tournament capital of Canada is one of fitness and wholesome outdoor activity. More importantly, it gives us control of the image of who we are, rather than having misconceptions imposed on us.