Kelowna’s chances of landing the 2020 Memorial Cup tournament have increased.
On Monday, Victoria, one of four cities vying to host the Canadian Hockey League’s national championship tournament—along with Kelowna, Lethbridge and Kamloops—bowed out of the running saying it was too big of an ask of that community, in light of the city co-hosting the 2019 IIHF world junior hockey championship this winter with Vancouver.
Instead, Victoria says it will now focus on the 2023 Memorial Cup tournament, the next time the four-team championship event will be hosted by an WHL team.
Victoria has never hosted the Memorial Cup tournament.
The WHL governors will name the host city for 2020 Oct. 3 after two days of presentations by the Kelowna, Kamloops and Lethbridge bid committees to an independent selection panel in Calgary.
The Victoria bid committee said in addition to community fatigue, upgrades are also needed at Save-On Foods Memorial Centre and waiting to 2023 will provide more time for those to be done.
With Victoria backing out of the running, Kelowna, which hosted the tournament in 2004 when the Kelowna Rockets won the Memorial Cup, will face-off against Kamloops, which last hosted the tournament in 1995 and Lethbridge, which has never hosted it.
The tournament features the host team and the WHL, OHL and QJHL champions.
Among the main criteria for teams bidding to host the tournament is guaranteeing a substantial financial return to the Western Hockey League and its member teams, as well as having adequate infrastructure in place, such as the arena and hotels as well as icing a competitive team.
The Rockets met all those standards for the 2004 event and team president and general manager Bruce Hamilton has said the same would hold true for 2020.
With the Rockets footing the bill for the championship, Hamilton anticipates the club would offer a return to the league of between $1.5 and $2 million as a result of the tournament. That money would then be split amongst the 22 teams in the WHL.
The tournament itself is expected to pump a minimum of $12 million to $15 million into the local economy of the winning city, in addition to the week-long national television expose the city will thanks to all the games being televised.
The Rockets are currently promoting season ticket sales for the upcoming season, saying anyone with season’s tickets this year will have the right to buy tickets for those same seats at the Memorial Cup in 2020 if Kelowna wins the bid.
In 2004 when Kelowna last hosted the Memorial Cup, the event took on a higher profile than it had it the past with tents and display kiosks set up outside the arena, many accompanying non-game events and a festival-like atmosphere in and around Prospera Place.
Hamilton has said in 2020, if the city wins the bid, a partnership with Kelowna Tourism would see that become an even bigger focus, with the the tournament promoted as an entire downtown event, not just one at Prospera Place.
While Victoria is out of the running for the 2020 tournament, that does not mean there would be no connection to the B.C. capital if the city is named host.
Kelowna’s Prospera Place, the home rink of the Rockets, is owned by Graham Lee, who also owns the Victoria Royals and Save-On Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria.
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