NBA, NFL adding extra cash into Winnipeg businesses' pockets

Sports events happening outside of Winnipeg are putting some extra money in local pockets – and right now basketball is drawing more people to bars than hockey.

Tony Siwicki of Silver Heights Restaurant and Lounge said the bar is packed full when the NBA’s Toronto Raptors are on the court.

“It’s pretty crazy, there’ll be screaming and complaining at each other over the game, there will be one eye on the basketball game,” said Siwicki, laughing.

“But it’s all sports in the end.”

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On Thursday afternoon, Siwicki was figuring out how to manage all the upcoming games, including the Raptors, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, the Winnipeg Goldeyes and the Valour FC games, as well as pre-season CFL action.

But right now, the focus is on the Raptors as those games are drawing more people than the Stanley Cup playoffs between the St. Louis Blues and the Boston Bruins, he said.

“It’s a Canadian team, it’s the talk of the town,” he said, adding people who aren’t basketball fans are watching.

The Toronto Raptors are the first Canadian basketball team to compete in the NBA finals. Their next game against the Golden State Warriors happens Friday, and they lead the series 2-1.

Over at Moxie’s on Kenaston, the crowds are bigger on Raptors nights than on weekend nights right now, said one employee.

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“I’ll tell you, last night it was packed in here,” she said Thursday about Wednesday’s Raptors game. “It was quite busy, it was crazy.”

Scott Jocelyn of the Manitoba Hotel Association told 680CJOB that their hoteliers with bars are also seeing an uptick, and also cited the fact that a lot of younger people don’t have cable TV to watch the game as a reason for the increase.

“If you want to find an event like this, you’ve got to find it on cable and you’ve got to go to establishments like ours to to see it,” he said.

The NFL pre-season game

While it’s too early to fully understand the impact the recent announcement of an NFL pre-season game to be played in Winnipeg Aug. 22, some hotels have adjusted their prices in anticipation.

For example, the Delta Hotel is advertising a King room for $361 on Aug. 22, but the same room will go for $157 the following Thursday.

Some hotels have already sold out for Aug. 22, including the Fairmont Hotel and the Four Points Sheraton on South Pembina, and the Alt Hotel advertises that they do not change their prices for special events.

“It’s great news for the industry,” said Joceyln.

“I think the exposure that you get, from the tourism perspective, people that perhaps haven’t been here, maybe they don’t think there’s a reason to come here” until they come to the game and see what else the city has to offer, he said.

The Oakland Raiders and Green Bay Packers game will help to raise the city’s profile as a sports hotspot, said Winnipeg Football Club CEO Wade Miller.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “Another large-scale sporting event at IG Field.

“It’s an opportunity for NFL fans and CFL fans to come and see a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.”

Miller said the club’s fan service team has been fielding calls from as far away as B.C. and Quebec, inquiring about tickets to the NFL game, and he expects a lot of out-of-town fans to make their way to the city.

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“You look at the exposure just the announcement got yesterday across North America. I think it’s elevating our sports town as we are, and we’ll show again what great fans we have of all sports.”

Winnipeg Blue Bomber season ticket holders got first dibs on tickets to the preseason game, and prices range from $75 to $340. Tickets for the public go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m.

RELATED: NFL announces Packers-Raiders exhibition game in Winnipeg

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