Ice Racing; a Tourism Attraction

Ice Racing

Problem: the community you are working in as an economic developer has a major tourism attraction at its core, that is frozen solid from December until March. The typical above zero regional tourism opportunities drop along with the temperatures.

Restaurants, hotels, and your downtown niche retailers would like some great weekender traffic, even if the water in the lake is frozen into an ice sheet 40 cms thick.

Portage La Prairie, MB had a problem; a lack of experience tourism in winter months. One that community can market to external markets that are broader in scope than sports tourism.

Solution: Roll with it…literally, and bring 27 auto racers to town to race around the lake on kidney shaped ice track for two days on a cold weekend in February. (yes racing cars on ice)

My economic development crew at the time interviewed each one of the racers and their families as to how much they had spent in the private sector over the weekend. (Ie. Hotels, restaurants, retail and gas stations!) On average each racer spent $743 over the weekend in local establishments. (So just over 20,000 after all) And that was just the racers…..

We had over 900 spectators per day; some local of course but over 50% of the license plates attending were from outside the political boundaries (simple walk by Ec Dev survey).

I have quite a few anecdotal stories of the positivity for such and event from this -24C day. My usual, Economic Developer Local Ambassador habit of walking through crowds is instinct now. This is really just talking to complete strangers about the event, the town or some localized knowledge (a great restaurant for families, or where the local hardware store is). I find doing something like this always adds value to each participant in the conversation. On this day it was no different. After an hour in the crowd, I noted a pattern; in these conversations, people who had relations in Portage la Prairie had heard of the event and had come for a visit that weekend to see family and join in said event.

So? Success

Quantitatively, it brought an economic boost, during the slowest retail season of the year. (Over $20,000 from the racers themselves + 1800 spectators spending)

Qualitatively, it brought “weekenders” back to the region ( ages 5 to 85 ) to visit, and of course, speak about it later when they were back in their communities (This equates to regional experiential word of mouth advertising).

So it was a way to utilize a what a was perceived negative into a multiplier positive for the economy.

And it was also a good time,

Ice Racing Returning to Portage

Fire on Ice Racing a hit

Portage Ice Racing Results

Douglas Barill

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