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Sports and entertainment options propel city forward
Jun 09, 2017

by Marina R. James

Winnipeg’s infrastructure investments continue to experience exceptional momentum in 2017, totaling more than $2 billion and spanning over 200 initiatives, many of which involve prominent real estate projects. Leading the way is True North Square, a $400-million mixed-use development now under construction that will eventually consist of four towers and an outdoor public plaza. Also notable is Artis REIT’s plan to spend about $200 million on a multistage development at its Portage and Main property, which includes a 40-storey apartment tower breaking ground later this year.

These large-scale projects are two among many others either recently completed or currently being planned/ built. The abbreviated list is impressive: the $200-million Outlet Collection Winnipeg, the $200-million SkyCity development, the $160-million Manitoba Museum capital campaign, the $90-million Red River College innovation centre, the $65-million Inuit Art Centre and the $23-million Canada Games Sport for Life Centre.

Real estate investments like these stimulate economic growth citywide, a significant share of which includes sports and entertainment infrastructure projects and events attracting international attention of late. A perfect example? Winnipeg’s stint on the world stage as a host city for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, which generated an economic impact of nearly $36 million. Winnipeg came alive during the World Cup — but perhaps best of all, our city felt relevant.

More recently, Winnipeg saluted hockey greats like Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Dale Hawerchuk and Teemu Selanne as the host city of the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic™. This thrilling matchup electrified our city last October, with more than 11,000 visitors spending over $11 million.

And later this year, Winnipeg welcomes the 2017 Canada Summer Games. About 24,000 visitors, athletes and coaches will converge on Winnipeg for an event expected to produce an economic impact of $150 million for Manitoba.  

Sporting events like these serve as compelling reminders of the power of sports and entertainment in propelling Winnipeg forward. They give our city a chance to punch above its weight and showcase our unique value proposition to businesses and people pondering a Winnipeg investment or move. Clearly, our city provides fertile ground for employing sports and entertainment as a springboard to more far-reaching citywide effects, including those affecting real estate professionals.

Evidence suggests companies and individuals alike recognize the economic impact professional and amateur sports can have on a city, and Winnipeg is no exception. Prestigious athletic events add fuel to the economic engine that keeps many associated industries humming along. Similarly, Winnipeg’s entertainment scene is contributing to the city’s perpetual push toward bigger and better things.

Entertainment aficionados understand that not every musician worthy of admiration will sell out at either Bell MTS Place or Investors Group Field, and that’s okay because our city offers an array of other venues. From the Burton Cummings Theatre and the West End Cultural Centre to the Centennial Concert Hall and the Pantages Playhouse Theatre, Winnipeggers embrace creative people and give them lots of places to ply their craft. Critically, in supporting these talents, increasingly vibrant districts are sprouting up throughout the city.

A select group of Winnipeggers is focused on sharing this optimism in creative ways. Especially intriguing is the recent rise in entrepreneurs capitalizing on Winnipeg’s arts, culture and entertainment scene, which collectively enhances Winnipeg’s reputation as an energetic, exciting and inspiring city.

Culture Card (www.culturecard.ca) is a great example of a new company using an innovative app to endorse unique experiences and/or discounted deals by promoting the most interesting events happening in our city. Partners include the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Thermëa by Nordik Spa-Nature, among others.

Additional operators in this space include the Winnipeg Culture Pass (www.winnipegculturepass.ca), the Winnipeg Pass (www.winnipegpass.com) and Culture on Every Corner (www.culureoneverycorner.ca). You’ll find a handy primer to these kinds of initiatives on a dedicated page of Tourism Winnipeg’s website (www.tourismwinnipeg.com). Another Tourism Winnipeg asset is its Peg City Grub microsite (www.pegcitygrub.com). There’s no better culinary guide for wining and dining your clients at fabulous eateries not duplicated elsewhere. 

Ultimately, Winnipeg’s economy benefits when sports, entertainment and related options are keenly envisioned and smartly executed. Sports facilities and entertainment districts are powerful inducements for locals and potential newcomers alike.

And like other large and small North American cities besides ours that aren’t by default catapulted to the top of the desirability index, many of our city’s public- and private-sector leaders are making a carefully considered wager that shoring up our sports and entertainment offerings will pay consequential dividends in the years ahead.

(Marina R. James is the CEO of WinnipegREALTORS®.)