Sean Smith fought back with all the vigour of a city man who has to watch his tongue, which seemed firmly planted in cheek during some parts of an interview about the 2019 Global Sports Impact Canada Index.
“You know, for some reason, we didn’t even get the opportunity to submit our information to this particular intake,” said Smith, business operations and events supervisor for the City of Kamloops. "It’s worth checking with our IT department to make sure we’re not blocking their alerts.”
Ottawa-based Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance (CSTA) developed the index in 2018 in partnership with Sportcal, the United Kingdom-based publisher of the annual sports-market report.
Rick Traer, CEO of CSTA, said the index ranks Canadian cities hosting national championships and international events through data-driven assessment and provides an independent analysis from internationally recognized experts in the field.
Kamloops ranked 53rd overall in the nation and, perhaps more alarmingly for the Tournament Capital of Canada, 14th among cities with populations between 50,000 and 150,000, a bracket topped by none other than Kelowna, a sworn rival a few clicks down the road.
Rankings were based on national championships and international events hosted in 2018 and awarded for 2019.
Kamloops is listed as having three national championships and zero international events, while Kelowna, pegged 15th overall in Canada, has eight events in both the national and international categories.
Information for the index was submitted by members of CSTA through an online worksheet, which was analyzed independently by Sportcal.
Smith said neither he nor anyone else from the city was given the chance to offer input for the worksheet.
“I honestly don’t know which events their numbers are referring to, so I can’t say for sure what they’re basing our ranking on,” Smith said. “I know we have recurring national and international events that are also not considered in this kind of survey. It says for events that are held year after year, they only give the one year of credit for it.
“I can’t say which events they are considering to be national or international. I don’t know about the Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament, which has been running for over 50 years, or the Kamloops International Baseball Tournament that’s also about 50 years running.”
Smith has followed up with the CSTA.
“I don’t recall receiving this survey,” Smith said. “I don’t know if it was filtered out of my email or if something happened in transmission.
“I don’t know if it would have put us up against Kelowna. I’m not saying we would have been No. 1. I just don’t know where we would have landed had we had the opportunity to be part of it.”
Smith said Kamloops hosts an average of about 110 sporting events per year, with about 30,000 people coming to town to participate and contribute to a direct community spending amount of about $13 million annually.
The River City played host to the 2018 B.C. Winter Games, which had an estimated local economic impact of about $1.6 million, according to the provincial government, and featured about 1,200 athletes, 340 coaches and 200 officials.
“The city has been promoting sport tourism for over 30 years, long before any other community I’ve ever known to,” Smith said. “We’re Canada’s Tournament Capital because we want to be a preferred choice for all events and event organizers. Whatever events they are, we want to make sure we’re putting on the best events. I’m not sure that this survey really addressed that aspect of event hosting.”
The index also ranks events themselves in a statistic separate from the number-of-events-hosted category. Kamloops is 41st in national championships.
“We can offer so much outside of the competition itself,” said Smith, who made note of cultural events such as Music in the Park and the B.C. Festival of Performing Arts. “It would be nice if the experience was considered as part of the ranking. The Kamloops facilities are the reason a lot of these events do come, but it’s what happens as well as the competition that people will remember.”
Timing was not on Kamloops’ side for this year’s rankings, said Smith, with events such as the 2016 World Women’s Hockey Championship and 2014 Tim Hortons Brier, Four Nations Cup and NACAC Under-23 Championships unable to tip scales.
Kelowna snared the 2020 Memorial Cup, edging Kamloops and Lethbridge to secure a national tournament that will register on the 2020 rankings index.
“Good for them,” Smith said. “That makes us landing the  Canada 55-plus Games an extra bonus. If we had lost both for 2020, that would not have been good for our program.”
The city has interest in hosting the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the national women’s curling championship, and is in communication with TRU, which hosted the men’s national university soccer championship in 2017 and is pursuing an upcoming U Sports volleyball championship, Smith said.
TRU's most-recent bid for volleyball nationals failed.
Any events landed will be noted for CSTA analysis.
Let’s just hope the city’s IT department has Smith’s spam settings sorted before then.
“They’ve confirmed that they have me listed on their communication database,” Smith said. “It’s a moot point at this point. All we can do is make sure we are able to participate in the survey for next year and we’ll see where we land."
Making the lists
Montreal is the big winner in the 500,000-plus population GSI index, in first place ahead of Quebec City and Edmonton.
Saskatoon, Richmond and Regina rank first, second and third, respectively, for cities with population in the range of 150,000 and 500,000.
Lethbridge, in second, and Fredericton, in third, follow Kelowna in the 50,000 to 150,000 division.
Ranking one through three in the under-50,000 category are Charlottetown, Brandon and Leduc, Alta.