We needed this.
Revelers and football fans have flocked to Edmonton. As they celebrate the CFL’s biggest game, they spend money, lots of money.
Festival organizers estimate hosting the 2018 Grey Cup will bring 30,000 people to the city and will inject $100 million into Edmonton’s economy. Businesses couldn’t be happier.
“It’s much needed and welcomed,” says Garrett Turta, the Hotel Macdonald’s general manager and head of the Edmonton Destination Hotels group.
Hotels do not release booking statistics but Turta says, “If you haven’t done it, start making your reservations soon.”
The Downtown Business Association claims the hotels in the city’s core have all sold out this weekend and room rates have skyrocketed. In some cases, hotels tell Global News rates are more than triple what they’d normally be at this time of year.
Turta estimates business is up close to 10 per cent this week. Given the last few years, a week like this makes all the difference.
“In our industry, especially the last little while where hotels have been going backwards, backwards, backwards, this year is one where we’re at least going to be flat.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by those in the food industry.
LISTEN BELOW: Mayor Don Iveson discusses the Grey Cup Festival
In a kitchen on the east end of Edmonton, Sawmill staff work long days. The company has the contract to provide all the Grey Cup catering at Commonwealth Stadium, not to mention a number of other parties around the city.
They’re cleaning and preparing 550 kilograms of tenderloin. On Tuesday night alone, they partially cooked 700 hamburgers in preparation.
Len McCullough anticipates feeding 5,000 people on game day alone.
He won’t say how much money that will bring in to his business but he says Grey Cup Sunday will be equivalent to a typical month-and-a-half of sales.
“Grey Cup is very much needed for the city of Edmonton,” McCullough said. “The loss of the CFR had some impact and having something like this I think is a motivating piece for all of us.”
Not every business is enjoying a Grey Cup windfall.
Right in the middle of the Grey Cup Festival along Jasper Avenue, Lynsae Moon tries to stay busy at the Nook Cafe.
The festival has shut down streets all around her. Moon tells Global News she has seen a 20 per cent decrease in business because nobody can park close to the cafe.
“You would normally be able to zip in and access us one block off of Jasper Avenue,” said Moon. “You now have to go several blocks east or west, then you’ll have to travel a number of blocks north before coming around.”
Festival organizers say as soon as the festival begins, businesses like the Nook should see more customers.
Watch below – Nov. 19: The Grey Cup Festival is taking over a section of downtown Edmonton. But one business owner says the road closures are negatively impacting the bottom line. Quinn Ohler reports.
As important as all the food and hotel cash is to local businesses, other groups say the Grey Cup can help Edmonton in other, less quantifiable ways.
The game is a marketing opportunity.
“These are invaluable,” says Ian O’Donnell of the Downtown Business Association.
Half a million people are expected to attend the festival along Jasper Avenue. O’Donnell can’t wait to help show off the transforming downtown to visitors.
The Grey Cup was last here in 2010 and since then, Edmonton has built a new arena, several new skyscrapers have gone up and more people moved to the core.
“It’s a great way to market us to investors and potential investors. With national media coverage, that’s something you just can’t buy,” O’Donnell said.
The head of the Grey Cup Festival agrees. Activities there are free. Nobody is directly making money from the events. But the indirect benefits matter.
“It’s really about driving people to come and have fun,” Duane Vienneau said. “But that key driver is getting people to our marketplace.”