Posted by: Alan Halberstadt | September 20, 2013

Kids’ Games’ Blog Growing Legs

The furor over my blog, questioning the economic impact of the Children’s Games, continues to have legs. One ironic by-product of the Windsor Star story on the front page highlighting Mayor Eddie Francis’s issues with the blog has been a dramatic increase in traffic on my site.

Before the mayor’s letter, and the Star’s reporting of it, the site was experiencing 4 – 10 unique hits per day. Since the letter was published, as of Sept. 19th, I have been averaging 600 unique hits per day, for a total of 1,238.

This is a good thing for my blog site, but more importantly for the community at large since it has generated a much broader and healthy conversation on the value of the event to taxpayers, particularly in light of the $9.4-million FINA Games looming on the horizon in 2016.

Other media have since jumped into the act with a higher level of scrutiny, notably CBC. Below is a news item entitled, “International Children’s Games’ economic impact questioned” posted on the CBC website where some tough question are raised.

Used with permission.

It could be weeks, even years, before it’s known whether the City of Windsor will get a return on the $900,000 of taxpayers’ money it paid to host the International Children’s Games.

The games wrapped up in mid-August, but there’s still no proof the games were worth the investment and the hype.

Mayor Eddie Francis insists the games put Windsor on the map but it will be at least four weeks – if at all – before a final financial report is tabled.

Francis said Tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island is conducted an economic study of the games and their impact.

Tourism president Gordon Orr said he doesn’t think an economic study was being done.

‘There is no value you can place in terms of the brand recognition.’- Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis

But Francis said he absolutely stands by the fact that Windsor will benefit.

“From an economic perspective, there is no value you can place in terms of the brand recognition for the fact that people visited the city and left with a memorable experience,” Francis said. “Their local media back home reported about their experience back in Windsor. For most, that was the first time they’ve ever experienced the city or been to the city

Although not scientific, CBC Windsor did a Google News search for the terms “International Children’s Games” and “Windsor”.

That returned 207 results in English media, most based in Windsor.

The games were mentioned in two newspapers from the U.K. and one from each of Croatia, Australia and Michigan.

A similar search in other languages, French German, Russian and others, through Google Translate yielded no results.

Independent study called for

Coun. Alan Halberstadt is skeptical the games will have a significant financial impact.

“From a social value, it was a great social event in Windsor. The economic benefit remains to be seen,” Halberstadt said.

He wants an independent economic study conducted.

“When we expend $1.7 million of public money and we say there’s a $6- million economic benefit I think there should be proof in the pudding,” Halberstadt said. “Let’s see it in black and white.”

Marijke Taks, a University of Windsor professor of kinesiology who studies the socio-economic aspects of sport and sport consumer behaviour, declined to do an economic impact study.

She said she has attempted to do economic cost-benefit studies of these types of events in the past and found there was no economic benefit.

In recent years, she’s decided to look at the social impact, asking whether people had fun, what their opinions of the city were, etc.

Taks told CBC Windsor events like the children’s games don’t leave much of a sustainable economic effect on a city.

Francis, though, insists the games “bring people to your city that otherwise perhaps would have no reason to visit and I think the ICG clearly demonstrated that.”

He may be right

Tourism Windsor-Essex Pelee Island said there is “no doubt” businesses saw a spike over those few days of games.

‘They love our brands’

Windsor Crossing general manager Colleen Conlin said some businesses suggest they benefited from the games.

Conlin said while she can’t say for sure whether or not their visits resulted in increased sales, traffic was definitely up during the games and there were many people walking around sporting team uniforms.

Conlin said European teams “love our brands” especially Coach, Tommy, Hugo and the sport stores Adidas and Reebok were also busy at Windsor Crossing.

She said sales numbers for the month will be available next week.

According to Orr, the occupancy rate for the month of August. 2013 was up 6 per cent over last August. He said he can’t attribute all of that to the games, but said the stats for July 2013 were on par with last year.

He also said the average cost for a hotel room this August in Windsor was up $2 over last year.

Francis said the games are just one piece in a sports tourism puzzle the city is trying to piece together.

“The events allows us to put together a cluster, a resume, if you will, to go after other events,” he said. “All this is part of a very lucrative sports tourism market in the billions of dollars.”

Posted by: Alan Halberstadt | September 16, 2013

Games’ Sponsors Identified

Some readers are wondering why I did not publish the entire letter from the mayor in my previous blog. One reason was the magnitude of it, some 1500 words, and the repetition of entire sections of the original blog.

Compare this to the Windsor’s Stars’ Letter- To-The-Editor Limit of 300 words. I also knew that the entire letter had worked its way into the hands of the Star, and that The Star would be anxious to report on it, as newspapers tend to do when they sense conflict.

I was remiss, however, in not including one segment of the mayor’s letter in my morning September 16 post, as follows:

MY BLOG: Early on we were told that grants/partnership applications were in the works to be submitted to Provincial Ministry of Health Promotions, Celebrate Ontario, Canadian Heritage, celebrate Canada and other federal provincial programs. None of these came through.

MAYOR’S RESPONSE: Windsor Essex applied and received:

  1. Celebrate Ontario $250,000 (provincial blockbuser grant) and an Allegra Footprint Fund grant of $500 in support of the ICG Games.
  2. Ontario Trillium Grant (55,000) in collaboration with The Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County to support the “Team Ambassador” program which provided translators for visiting teams and families to help showcase the diversity of our community. This grant was lead by the MCC. The MCC recruited and trained over 250 translators providing access to 35 languages during the Games. The Team Ambassadors were a huge hit with the visitors and proved to be an important factor in leaving a positive impression with many people as a reflection of our diverse community.
  3. Sponsorship and fundraisers raised significant donor dollars in support of the ICG Games. We held 6 major fund raisers, online donations, and an Adopt and Athlete campaign, as well as cash sponsors to the tune of $460,077.24
  4. A (JCP) Job Creation partnership grant from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities in the amount of $24,430 was received by the United Way to assist with the recruitment and training of all of the ICG volunteers.
  5. Healthy Communities Fund $50,000 for development of resource materials to support IN Sport WE Are One legacy health initiative.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The eight-page Insert in the Windsor Star heralding the International Children’s Games, included a page presenting “Our Sponsors.” While it did contain the Ontario emblem at the top, only the Trillium Foundation was mentioned in the “community partner’s sector. It did not specifically include the names of Celebrate Ontario, JCP Job Creation, Celebrate Canada and other federal/provincial programs. I understand a full report on all of this, as mentioned in my original posting, will be submitted to Council in a few weeks.


Posted by: Alan Halberstadt | September 16, 2013

The Mayor Weighs In

Mayor Eddie Francis has taken issue with my previous blog, posted on Aug. 27, in which I started by praising him, the organizers and a legion of volunteers for pulling off a joyful celebration of youth sports and culture.

The blog, entitled “If Kids Games Financials Offend You, Beware FINA,” otherwise centered on my opinions of whether or not the International Children’s Games (ICG) put Windsor on the World Stage and on the implications of the amount of taxpayer money expended on hosting the Games, as opposed to private sector contributions, in light of the need to raise an estimated $9.4 million for the FINA world short-course swimming championships to be hosted by Windsor in 2016.

In a four-page letter, printed on City of Windsor letterhead and distributed at the Sept. 9 Council meeting, the Mayor denounced me as a “never-let-facts-stand-in-the-way” writer who demeaned and degraded the community and the array of volunteers who dedicated themselves to ensure the success of the Games.

I do not agree, and would like to reiterate my praise of the Mayor and all the people responsible for staging and participating in this uplifting and grand event. The only content in the blog that was demeaning, in my view, was the use of a reference to people who accept the mayor’s definition of World Stage as “those who drink his Kool-Aid.”

I would like to publicly apologize to the Mayor Francis for that. We can vigorously disagree on issues, but references such as that are unnecessary and potentially hurtful.

The rest of the blog, in my opinion, represented fair comment.

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