Field lacrosse championship proves tough sell

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

Lacrosse is a great sport. Whether it will sell is another matter altogether.

Tim Hobbs, chair of the 2006 world field lacrosse championship, has worked his knuckles to the bone, knocking on doors in an effort to promote the tournament in London July 13-22.

Have you heard it's on?

If you haven't, it isn't for lack of effort on Hobbs' part. It just goes to show what a tough sell it may be.

It's fortunate Hobbs is so passionate about the sport. Many would never have taken on this project. It's simply too big a risk, especially financially.

It's like the matter of bacon and eggs. The chicken makes a contribution with the egg. But the pig makes a commitment. Hobbs has made a real commitment financially as well as investing huge chunks of his time over the last year.

Hobbs hasn't gotten the government commitment he expected, either locally or federally. As a result, he's sunk some of his own money into the venture.

If he manages to sell this and come out on top, it's a pretty good indication that just about any event will make money in this city.

"There's no question putting this on is an uphill battle," Hobbs said. "Through the generosity of Trillium (an Ontario government foundation) they gave us $147,000 for the event and Tourism Ontario gave us $25,000 for advertising outside the city.

"The biggest disappointment is the federal government. They've given us zero. . . . We've been referred to 10 different agencies but quite honestly we didn't get a penny."

Hobbs says the city has done about $10,000 in promotion for the event but he hasn't seen any cash.

The city has given him a break on field rentals.

"They are starting to work with us toward knocking down the price of fields," Hobbs said. "It could still use a little bit of massaging to make it fair. Right now the price is about $45,000 just to rent the fields. There's another $40,000 at TD Waterhouse. With the magnitude of the people coming to London, they could give us a break. We just got a report on housing, three residences at Western are full. A fourth one will be filled with youth teams coming in. The hotel rooms in London . . . there isn't even a block of 15 rooms left anywhere in London for the 12 days of our event."

Hobbs said based on the 2002 event in Perth, Australia, the economic impact should be about $15 million.

"(The city) should look at waiving the fee for that," said Hobbs. "We put the bid package together in 30 days. We didn't have time to run around and ask the city for guarantees up front. . . . We just hope that (the city) would rise to the occasion as they have on other events. Some of it just hasn't happened."

So what if this thing loses money?

"I don't think there'll be any losses," Hobbs said. "We'll be happy to see a small profit on this event. We did careful planning with a business plan. There's the good, better, best scenario. On a good day, we make a little profit. On a bad day, we break even."

Hobbs continues to sell and plan for the 21 national teams, 47 men's teams and 24 youth teams coming to London. He's a firm believer in the future of this sport.

And he's made a significant investment to prove it.


Videos

Photos