Talk to Steinbach’s Chris Koop sometime and ask him about his world travels. Guaranteed, you will be impressed.
The local graphic artist, who owns the design studio Chez Koop, has another side of him away from work that has taken him literally around the globe the past two decades, attending the world’s biggest and most important sporting events.
Most recently, he just returned from the Monaco Grand Prix in Europe, the most famous Formula One car race in the world. It was his eighth trip to Monaco.
Why Monaco, and why eight times, you ask? Well, it is because of his longtime affiliation with a company called Roadtrips.
Roadtrips is a Winnipeg based company, owned by a couple of Mennonites no less, Duane Penner and Dave Guenther.
Koop, who taught for a decade at the SRSS in Steinbach before opening his business, met Duane Penner while they were both working at Earl’s on Main Street during their university days and have remained close friends since then. "We were both in each other’s wedding parties, "said Koop in a recent interview at his office in downtown Steinbach.
Roadtrips is a highly specialized company offering luxury sports travel packages to the world’s elite sporting events. It has become a major player in the industry as they cater to clients from around the world, but predominantly they are American.
Each of these sports tours comes with a host from Roadtrips and that is where Koop comes in as he has criss-crossed the globe with the company.
Back in the early days, 1996 to be exact, Koop took his first tour along his wife Michelle as they guided a group on a hockey and baseball bus tour through the U.S. "That was for the blue collar sports fan," said Koop, "now they largely focus on a different clientele."
A case in point was the recent trip to the Monaco Grand Prix that he and Penner took, a group of 25 or 26 that Koop said were "mostly wealthy Americans."
While sitting in his office at Chez Koop, who also does all the design work for Roadtrips, Koop received an email from a father and son from Dallas, who had just returned from the Monaco Grand Prix, thanking them for hosting the trip.
Travel packages are tailor made for the individual or couple, packages that could run in the range of $10,000 to $50,000 for two people. Packages at Monaco, for example, saw clients helicoptered in from nearby Nice, France.
Customers stay in a variety of hotel options, ranging from expensive to downright ridiculous. From there, the experience of a trip to Monaco could be whatever the client wants, said Koop, from watching the race on an adjacent yacht, getting into a pit area, or attending various other race functions, the sky is really the limit in accommodating whatever they want.
Koop figures he has been on about 20 trips worldwide, although he limits himself to about one trip per year.
He has been to the Olympics five times with Roadtrips, primarily the Summer Olympics as he was at the Summer Games in Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, and Rio in 2016 as well as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. And he will be attending the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.
Hosting tours like this is a lot of work, "but I have also been fortunate to see the men’s volleyball final at the last three Olympic Games. The volleyball DNA runs very deep in the Koop household. He played university ball at the U of W, is married to former Olympian Michelle Sawatzky, and their twin sons, almost by osmosis, are standout players in high school.
Along the way, he has led tours to the Kentucky Derby, the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis as well as the U.S. Open and the Masters in golf. "I would like to add the British Open one day to that list.
And there is the World Cup of Soccer. He has led tours to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and then last year, the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
"The World Cup in Russia was one of my favourite events, I had always wanted to go to Russia."
He says although he will go to the Olympic volleyball final, "I have never actually been to any of the World Cup Games, I think that kills Steve (SRSS soccer coach Steve Rebizant)."
Now, plans are already in that works for next summer’s Olympics in Japan.
"I love sports and I love travel," said Koop in summarizing his annual worldwide sports junkets.