City taxpayers are on the hook for about half the bill to host the nine Whiteout street parties during the Winnipeg Jets' recent NHL playoff run.

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This article was published 4/6/2018 (1452 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

City taxpayers are on the hook for about half the bill to host the nine Whiteout street parties during the Winnipeg Jets' recent NHL playoff run.

True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd. and City of Winnipeg officials told reporters Monday the two groups have essentially split the $2.167 million cost of the outdoor events.

True North (owner of the Jets and Bell MTS Place) paid $1,084,900, including $931,900 for production costs and a $153,00 payment to city hall to offset policing and Winnipeg Transit costs. It kept all revenue from event beer and food sales.

The taxpayers' share is $1.082 million, with civic departments, mostly police and Transit, absorbing $962,000.

Economic Development Winnipeg paid another $120,000 -- money coming from Mayor Brian Bowman's office expense fund.

 

 

Kevin Donnelly, True North senior vice-president of venues and entertainment, said the team was able to lower its total cost to about $600,000 by selling beer, food and sponsorships. He said the decision was made at the start of the post-season the team would get to keep all the revenue, but the costs would be split with city hall.

"In most common occurrences where there is a gathering outside an arena, the team isn’t involved at all, and the team doesn’t pay anything," Donnelly said during a news conference in the atrium at Bell MTS Place.

"True North wasn’t interested in putting on something that took on 100 per cent of the expenses on the premise that it was a free-admission event. There’s no way to break even, there’s no way to achieve any kind of reasonable return. So the discussion was: we want to keep it free, we want to share responsibility for the organization, share responsibility for the costs and just divide the expenses in way that we felt was equitable and manageable between all the parties."

Kevin Donnelly, Senior Vice President for True North Sports and Entertainment: 'In most common occurrences where there is a gathering outside an arena, the team isn’t involved at all and the team doesn’t pay anything.'

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Kevin Donnelly, Senior Vice President for True North Sports and Entertainment: 'In most common occurrences where there is a gathering outside an arena, the team isn’t involved at all and the team doesn’t pay anything.'

Michael Jack, Winnipeg chief corporate services officer, said the city realized it was going to incur costs during the playoffs, adding if the outdoor events weren't organized, they might be spontaneously generated by exuberant fans.

"We had a team that was headed towards the playoffs. We knew that no matter what, this was going to be an exciting time in the city and an exciting time downtown," Jack said. "We were going to have to resource this regardless. We were going to have to provide Transit resources regardless, for whatever celebrations occurred, whether it was an organized one... or spontaneous ones all over the downtown.

"That’s why, from Day 1, we treated this as a partnership."

Jack said going in, the city didn't know how much it was going to cost -- adding it depended on the team's success -- but the objective was to ensure all the street parties were well-managed. He said financial arrangements for any future events will have to be worked out.

Michael Jack, chief operating officer for the City of Winnipeg: 'We had a team that was headed towards the playoffs. We knew that no matter what, this was going to be an exciting time in the city and an exciting time downtown'

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Michael Jack, chief operating officer for the City of Winnipeg: 'We had a team that was headed towards the playoffs. We knew that no matter what, this was going to be an exciting time in the city and an exciting time downtown'

"We’re going to have discussions with our elected officials, we’re going to debrief," Jack said. "We have kept everyone in the loop, in terms of the costs as they accumulated. I believe there was general support at city hall for what happened, for all the enthusiasm, for the parties, but we’re going to have to have that discussion."

The Winnipeg Police Service said last week it cost $788,000 in overtime for officers to man the street parties. Jack said it cost Transit about $150,000.

Jack said he doesn't know how police and Transit will cover the costs they incurred, adding if it can't be done, council may have to provide them with additional funds.

"Everything is on the table in terms of handling this within acceptable finance principles," he said. "I can’t give you any specifics on each of those departments, but they’re each being asked to look within their own department budgets to see how they may be able to handle this."

Jack said it's likely there will be more street parties next NHL post-season, adding all civic departments have been warned to make provisions within their budgets for costs similar to this year.

Fans quickly left the Whiteout street party Sunday when the Jets lost on May 20. Romeo Landigha stuck around to clean up the mess.

JESSICA BOTELHO-URBANSKI/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Fans quickly left the Whiteout street party Sunday when the Jets lost on May 20. Romeo Landigha stuck around to clean up the mess.

"Certainly, departments now know, with a team that is achieving this well, that there is a realistic chance that we’d be going through this next year. So departments are being expected to look at that in terms of what they request from city council in the next year’s budget."

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which is usually critical of questionable spending by city hall, said it supported the decision to cost-share the expense of the Whiteout parties -- and had no objection to True North keeping all revenue from beer and food sales.

"The fact that there’s a big bill for a big party is not shocking at all," said Todd MacKay, CTF's Prairie director. "And it’s good that the city and the Jets are working together to foot the bill."

While True North, Economic Development Winnipeg and the city were working out who pays for what "on the fly," MacKay said the organizations should come up with a comprehensive plan ahead of time, should the Jets make another playoff run.

Marketing pros celebrate Whiteout parties

Dayna Spiring, chief executive officer and president of Economic Development Winnipeg, says the Winnipeg Jets' long NHL playoff run, and the nine Whiteout street parties that accompanied it, will have a significant long-term impact for the city.

Spiring told reporters Monday the street parties and playoff games generated more than 400 separate news articles, and a total audience for print and television of more than 233 million people.

“We threw nine parties the size and scale Winnipeg has never seen before,” Spiring said. “The economic impact that kind of coverage is going to have… is going to be felt by organizations like ours for many years to come.”

Dayna Spiring, chief executive officer and president of Economic Development Winnipeg, says the Winnipeg Jets' long NHL playoff run, and the nine Whiteout street parties that accompanied it, will have a significant long-term impact for the city.

Spiring told reporters Monday the street parties and playoff games generated more than 400 separate news articles, and a total audience for print and television of more than 233 million people.

“We threw nine parties the size and scale Winnipeg has never seen before,” Spiring said. “The economic impact that kind of coverage is going to have… is going to be felt by organizations like ours for many years to come.”

Spiring said EDW will do a formal economic impact study on the media coverage, but added her office has already fielded calls from groups and organizations that have now included Winnipeg as a possible destination for an annual convention or event.

“There was an energy people saw across the continent that’s going to pay off for us,” Spiring said, but she would not reveal the identity of any interested group.

People whose business is marketing said Winnipeg caught “lighting in a bottle” with the Jets' playoff run that will prove to be invaluable.

Marty Fisher, president of local firm Sherpa Marketing, and Christine Saunders, president of Toronto-based Halmyre (formerly Marketing Strategy Group) said the coverage of the Whiteout parties will become a lure for organizations that never before considered Winnipeg as a potential host city.

“It shows another dimension of Winnipeg, not only the community side, but the successful side, a positive fun-loving side -- and who doesn’t want to be associated with that?” Saunders said. “Marketers would kill to be able to manufacture something like the lighting in the bottle that Winnipeg just had. That’s why it gets the hearts and minds of everyone going.”

Fisher said Toronto has long-embraced the street-party concept with events outside the Air Canada Centre (where the NHL's Maple Leafs and NBA's Raptors play) -- but Winnipeg outdid the Ontario capital.

“Winnipeg put a pretty cool and unique slant on (the street party),” Fisher said, adding Nashville, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C., were quick to copy the Whiteouts. “The best kind of PR is free, so the real economic impact remains to be seen.”

Fisher said in terms of a media buy, a print-only advertising campaign that reaches 233 million people would cost almost $35 million ($150 per 1,000 people reached) and a television ($15/1,000 people) or web campaign ($20/1,000 people) would cost anywhere between $3.5 million to $4.7 million.

“The type of exposure you just had you can’t manufacture and you can’t buy it, that’s why it becomes invaluable,” Saunders said.

"At the end of the day, the Jets going deep into the playoffs is good for Winnipeg and it’s good for taxpayers," he added. "You have to take the good along with the bad."

Coun. Jeff Browaty said while everyone united behind the NHL team, it would be unacceptable to cut civic services to pay for street parties.

"This year’s playoff run united Winnipeggers unlike anything I’ve ever seen during my life. As a one-off, I accept the last-minute plans that were made and the city absorbing some costs to help stage these parties," said Browaty (North Kildonan). "Expecting our departments to make decisions like reducing bus frequency, extending the time between park mowing cycles, or increasing property taxes for future parties, however, is not acceptable."

-- with files from Ben Waldman

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca