Telus Cup crowds have Membertou businesses prepared for busy week

MEMBERTOU — The return of the Telus Cup national under-18 men's hockey championship to Nova Scotia and the tournament's first time coming to Cape Breton marks a significant step up for Membertou-hosted sports events but also in local economic impact.

For the first time in a First Nations community, the Telus Cup tournament is being held this week at the Membertou Sport and Wellness Centre. Local business managers are anticipating a busy week ahead.

In January, Jennifer Collins, chair of the Telus Cup host committee, highlighted the anticipated economic boom at a launch event for the tournament. She said the estimated financial impacts would be significant and would support a total of $1.3 million of economic activity in the province, of which $1.1 million is expected to directly impact the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

For local accommodations like the Hampton Inn, the tournament has led to a noticeable increase in activity. General manager Robert MacNeil says the hotel has already seen a bump in bookings, from competing teams, staff and families who booked rooms long in advance, to a recent slew of spectators coming from away and looking for lodging.

"We are just about sold out for the week. We did see an uptick quite early on with the teams, and I'm assuming a lot of the families that are coming to attend, and then more towards the last minute we saw the spectators starting to walk in," said MacNeil. "Normally, Sunday is a quieter day and it was quite busy for Sunday last night. We have some more reservations coming in (Monday). Most people checked in as of (Sunday) and (Monday) for the whole week."

MacNeil also noted that the nature of the event leads to more extended stays, which affects operational dynamics and day-to-day work. He says rather than making more work for staff, the week-long stays save housekeeping staff from the daily check-in/check-out cycle.

"Generally, because guests are staying longer term, it's not check-in check-out, so we're seeing more stayovers. Technically, it's not as much work required for housekeeping's end because stayovers don't take as much as a full check-out," said MacNeil. "So, it's the same amount of staff, just lighter duties for them."

MacNeil hopes the economic momentum these more significant sporting events bring to the area continues.

"From the Scotties to the Women's World Curling Championship and now to the Telus Cup, it's nice to see these big events do well here," said MacNeil. "So far, with Cape Breton as a whole, it seems like the momentum is continuing."

The impact extends to local dining and convention facilities, too, particularly at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre and its nested fine-dining restaurant, Kiju's. General manager Glen Morrison says the convention centre will host all six teams and their staff for lunch and dinner throughout the tournament.

"We are actually hosting all of their meals here," said Morrison. "We're providing lunches and dinners for all of the teams and coaches for the week."

A few more staff will be on hand than usual, to facilitate catering the teams' meals. Still, Morrison says his staff is well prepared for an undertaking of this size, adding that Kiju's will be closed to the public for the second half of the week to accommodate the teams' needs.

"We will have a few extra people on, but we are a convention center, so we have a number of staff for catering events anyway," he said. "We are expecting a busy week. Kiju's restaurant will be closed for a few days because we are having the teams' meals later in the week in Kiju's.

"For the next few days, the meals will be in one of our conference rooms but because we have a lot of different things going on all week, we're going to dedicate Kiju's, from Thursday to Sunday, just to the Telus Cup."

Morrison also touched on how such events influence daily operations, saying that it will be business as usual for the convention centre but expects a bump in revenue from Kiju's restaurant business.

For Membertou, the Telus Cup is more than a sporting event; it's an economic and cultural opportunity that has already begun to leave its mark on local businesses.

Mitchell Ferguson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post