She was beautiful, this last winter classic. It must be admitted: the site was perfect. A permanent refrigerated ice rink in downtown Drummondville, enough space for the Classic Village and the bleachers, modern infrastructures already built all around that can welcome guests. What inspire Sherbrooke. The problem is that the city of Sherbrooke may not have a site of such good quality for this event.
A few numbers
First of all, let’s return to this weekend of outdoor hockey held in Drummondville. The goal was to fill the stands in both parts of the QMJHL. To reach the threshold of profitability, 90% was targeted. And that, not to mention the 2000 people present at the midget AAA game.
However, with the 4284 spectators Friday for the meeting between the Voltigeurs and the Phoenix and the 5432 spectators present during the game between the same Voltigeurs and the Tigers of Victoriaville, we get the sum of 9716 people. The bleachers could accommodate 6000 amateurs. So 90% of 12 000, that leads us to 10 800.
We can also question the marketing strategies of the event. Among other things, there was little advertising in Victoriaville and Sherbrooke to attract opposing supporters.
And for the organizing committee to blame the Phoenix for not having done its part in ticket sales and for approaching Hockey Sherbrooke four days before the event to fill buses with young hockey players, there was definitely a wind of panic. Normal, since the committee did not reach its goal.
The organizers managed to fill the stands at 81% for games of the QMJHL, which suggests that a small deficit could be absorbed by the City, the Voltigeurs and the Economic Development Corporation of Drummondville.
In the best case, there will be no losses, but no profits either. The official report will be unveiled in a few weeks.
The cost of renting the stands was approximately $ 200,000 over a budget of over $ 600,000. In 2015 in Saint-Tite, expenses were estimated at $ 350,000. In total, 13,000 people were present at both parties organized on the site of the Western Festival, taking advantage of the presence of bleachers. All that remained was to install a temporary ice rink, the quality of the ice was ordinary.
Martin Mondou, General Manager of Cataractes Shawinigan, then confessed: “It is very expensive. It represents a significant financial risk. It could have created a financial chasm. Obviously, since the number of spectators depends on the weather.
A reduced format
Some sites opportunities are available to Sherbrookois, who have shown interest in hosting a Winter Classic of the QMJHL.
First, the stadium of the Université de Sherbrooke, which is privileged.
Then, the Bishop’s University stadium, the Cégep de Sherbrooke Volunteers at Sylvie-Daigle Park near the Sports Palace or even the new RBC Triolet stadium.
At UdeS, a temporary refrigerated ice cream installed in the middle of the football field would be the easy solution. The spectators would then be very far from the action. The blame for the NHL Winter Classics presented in the various football stadiums.
Remember that the proximity between players and amateurs was very appreciated by fans in Saint-Tite and Drummondville.
In this case, the organizers would not have to rent temporary stands, only an ice rink. Costs would then be close to those of the Classic in Saint-Tite: $ 350,000 in total expenses.
The solution to allow the same type of experience as Saint-Tite and Drummondville? Bring the rink closer to the main stands at the UdeS, where the lodges are, and install temporary stands on the football field to bring the spectators closer to the action. The cost: about $ 100,000 for 3,000 seats. The budget would then be over $ 450,000, but 3,000 additional seats would certainly be too much.
At Bishop’s University, at the Triolet or next to the Palais des Sports, the fees would be much the same: refrigerated ice and temporary seating to reach 6,000 seats.
The question is there: why aim 6000 fans in Sherbrooke, knowing that Drummondville will be close to the threshold of profitability?
And if the City of Sherbrooke and the Phoenix did not present rather a reduced format of this Classic to reduce costs and maximize the chances of avoiding deficits.
Why not simply hoping for 4500 spectators per meeting by using only the main section of the stands of the UdeS mainly.
What if we looked at the Alfred-Élie-Dufresne Park and the Bleu-Blanc-Bouge de Sherbrooke skating rink? The quality of the ice would be perfect since it is a permanent installation. It would require the permission of the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation, co-owner of the place with the City. This is not won in advance, believe me …
No expense to install an ice rink. Are the places large enough to accommodate 6,000 people? I would be very surprised. Stairs of 3000 seats or a little more? More logical. But as for the Village of the Classic, with the animations, the kiosks, etc. It would be tight.
Ok, the places are not so magical: underground parking, concrete, a poor neighborhood. But the stands would certainly hide all this concrete. It would probably only see fire.
The general manager and shareholder of the Phoenix, Jocelyn Thibault, admits that this site will have to be considered. But it will be the City of Sherbrooke that will have the last word, since it will be the main actress of this story.
With better marketing, the Sherbrooke Winter Classic scheduled for 2021 could attract even more people than Drummondville. But the expenses will be higher. The danger of not doing its own thing too.
For my part, I would opt for the sober version. It remains to evaluate the risks that the organizers wish to take and the extent they would like to give to the event.