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Empty Grey Cup, Agribition venues remind events industry of the November that wasn’t

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WATCH: The cancellations of both the 108th Grey Cupo and 50th Agribition ruined what could have been a banner year for Regina's live event, tourism and hospitality industries – Nov 27, 2020

It’s been a tough week for stakeholders in Regina’s tourism, hospitality and live events industries.

If a novel coronavirus hadn’t begun snaking its way across the planet this year, and “COVID-19” had never entered the cultural lexicon, Regina’s Mosaic Stadium would have played host to its first-ever Grey Cup last weekend.

And, instead of corralling hundreds of idling vehicles lined up for drive-through COVID-19 testing, the Evraz Place grounds would soon be fencing in some of Canada’s finest livestock (producing emissions of a slightly different variety). Canadian Western Agribition’s 50th show was set to welcome the first of an estimated 125,000 total visitors Monday, Nov. 30.

Read more: SHA looking at ways to address long lines and waits at drive-thru test sites in Regina and Saskatoon

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“We would have been at our maximum occupancy for that time frame, we would have enjoyed wonderful hotel rates that would have been at a premium at that time,” said Glenn Weir, owner and general manager of SureStay Plus Hotel by Best Western.

He said that Grey Cup weekends have made for some of the best experiences of his decades-long career in hospitality.

“It’s a game in itself within the hotel industry,” Weir said. “The hotels are very lively at night with all the hotel guests coming back from the events of the day. It’s just a wonderful time to be in the hotel industry.”

But sadly, while his hotel was already booked solid by the time the CFL season was cancelled, occupancy is now hovering at around 80 per cent of capacity.

“We’re really in a state of distress. I think that’s a good word for describing most of the hotels, bars and restaurants in the city,” said Weir.

Read more: All officials for world junior hockey championship in Edmonton will be from Canada

Agribition CEO Chris Lane, meanwhile, says organizers and attendees are like are mourning the absence of the annual livestock trade show.

“We should be going full tilt right now,” he said. “I think that’s heavy on the hearts for everybody in the Agribition community today.”

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Lane said that Agribition typically attracts around 125,000 visitors each year. He said studies have suggested that it injects $45 million to $50 million a year into the local economy.

He added that while a contingency fund will help his organization weather the storms of 2020, Agribition’s losses will still run in the hundreds of thousands.

He said he’s optimistic that Agribition can return to its full form next year, but said he thinks any recovery will be dependent on the public’s willingness to once again gather for large events.

“I think we’re part of the fabric of what this city does every November. We’re all kind of struggling our way through it but we’re ready to come back in ’21.”