Big league brings big money

 Tamara King, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:18 AM ET

What do you get when you bring a big-league sports franchise -- like an NHL team -- to a medium-sized market like Winnipeg?

Economic development. Quite a bit of it, actually.

It's now official. The National Hockey League is coming back to Winnipeg after 15 lonely years without a team.

And while the greatest beneficiaries of this long-awaited deal will be hockey-starved Manitobans who are already going gaga over the team, the local economy will also profit from this new multi-million-dollar operation.

This isn't just a case or redistributing existing consumer spending within a local economy. An NHL team will actually draw wealth into the city and province, adding jobs and economic growth to Winnipeg's economy.

Let's start with local spending. No doubt some spending on NHL games and merchandise will simply be a case of Manitobans shifting their consumer spending from one retail sector to another.

A family may attend fewer movies, for example, or spend less money on a new flat-screen TV in order to afford NHL tickets. They may spend less time in the casino or at the shopping mall to free up discretionary cash for NHL games.

No economic growth there.

But there will be families and individuals who will forgo spending outside the province -- fewer trips to the U.S. or other provinces, for example -- in order to spend more of their after-tax income at home. Those are real economic gains.

Then there's the fan-base from outside of Manitoba. Hockey fans will travel to Winnipeg to attend NHL games from booming Saskatchewan, Northwestern Ontario, North Dakota and Minnesota. We call those tourist dollars, which will be felt not only at the MTS Centre box office, but also in hotels, bars, restaurants and other local retail outlets. That's money that would otherwise not make its way into the Manitoba economy.

There will also be people travelling to Winnipeg on business who will spend more of their money during their stay here because we have an NHL team.

In addition to their usual expenditures on hotels and restaurants, many business travellers will now also blow a couple hundred bucks at an NHL game, money that would have otherwise stayed in their wallets.

Any time a business, including an NHL franchise, can bring new revenue into the local economy, it's going to create jobs and economic development.

It's very different than say, adding a new shopping mall to your city, which simply shifts local spending from one store to another. Unless of course the new retail outlet has enough drawing power to attract consumers from out-of-province, like an IKEA would.

Meanwhile, the NHL team itself will also generate some economic activity for Manitoba. Millionaire players will buy homes, cars and other high-priced items in our local economy. And there will be new jobs created within the team organization.

There's also a marketing aspect for Winnipeg that can't be quantified in dollars and cents. Every time Winnipeg plays out-of-province, it will give the city and province publicity -- including TV coverage -- it wouldn't otherwise get.

It helps put the city on the map, as it were.

Having the NHL back in Winnipeg is by no means an economic silver bullet for Manitoba. It would take a lot more than a hockey team to elevate our economy to a "have" status from our current "have-not" designation.

But it will help, in more ways than one.

This is a great day for this city and this province. 


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