BEMIDJI, Minn. -- The Bemidji community is expecting Hockey Day Minnesota to be an economic power play.
Based on impacts in other host cities for Hockey Day, it’s an accurate assumption.
Now in its 13th year, Hockey Day Minnesota has celebrated the host communities, both metro and rural, with largely positive results. Organized by the Minnesota Wild and Fox Sports North, a Twin Cities-based television channel, Hockey Day isn’t just limited to one day, but rather a few days of outdoor entertainment on the ice.
Last year, Hockey Day was held in St. Cloud, and it provided a solid event on what’s usually a light schedule.
“There can be a gap sometimes after the holidays and the time before you see the conventions in February and March come in,” St. Cloud Community Development Director Matt Glaesman said. “So, to fill that gap, it certainly is nice to have that type of event.”
It was a similar opportunity for Moorhead when Hockey Day came to town in 2011.
“So many of us hunker down during the winter and don’t get out as much,” said Derrick LaPoint, president and CEO of Downtown Moorhead. “So, a lot of the businesses I talked to, the restaurants especially, saw a big uptick.”
One of the advantages to Hockey Day, Glaesman said, was its presence in the city over multiple days.
“It was well worth the time and effort,” Glaesman said. “Teams started practicing on Thursday and we saw people starting to come in there, and people stayed through Sunday. The big bang of the event is certainly during the weekend, but both the front end and the back end also bring visitors.”
“We had a lot of people show up from the community, the region and from throughout the state,” LaPoint said. “In talking to the different businesses, it had a tremendous impact on the community. It attracts so many families, and we had many of them staying for a long period of time and exploring what we have to offer.”
Greater Bemidji Economic Development Director Dave Hengel said he expects both direct and indirect impacts over the course of the next week.
“There’s certainly the impacts economically when you have thousands of people spending a whole weekend here,” Hengel said. “On top of that is the publicity, the awareness campaign that comes with Hockey Day from all of the media.”
In terms of direct impacts, Hengel said the community will benefit from what he called an “economic multiplier of tourism.”
“When you look at each family, they’re not only spending at hotels, but also food, beverage, gas and other amenities while they’re in town,” Hengel said. “That type of impact is multiplied in the community. That’s why things like these events are so important.”
One of the major beneficiaries of Hockey Day will actually be one of the event’s partners. Over the course of the weekend, the Sanford Center will be holding games of its own following the outdoor contests.
“Typically, we use the term ‘synergy,’” Sanford Center Executive Director Jeff Kossow said. “Any time you’re having multiple activities going on in your community our size, it really highlights the days, so it becomes complementary for us. It has been a success in my history in the business.”
In addition to people watching the hockey games, Kossow said the community also will benefit from more people knowing about the Sanford Center.
“Not everyone knows about the facility,” Kossow said. “So there might be people who are a fan of Hockey Day, go to it every year, and all of a sudden they discover the facility. The awareness is the best thing we can have.”
Hengel said the same is true at the macro level for the whole city.
“I think it’s important for us to show the Upper Midwest what Bemidji has become, which is the state’s emerging regional center,” Hengel said. “They can still see the great outdoors here, in all seasons, but they also get to see a vibrant downtown, an active economy and the growth in our community.”
Glaesman said the same was true for giving notice to St. Cloud.
“Something we knew going in was the promotion and marketing opportunity it presented,” Glaesman said. “Having St. Cloud on every commercial, and the games, that’s something you couldn’t afford in marketing dollars.”
All games on Saturdays for Hockey Day are broadcast on Fox Sports North.
Nate Mathews, Bemidji City Manager, said the word of mouth around the event is already creating buzz.
“It’s enormous,” Mathews said. “We know the exposure our community gets from this type of event is tremendous. So we are working as best we can to get the town looking as nice as it can and welcome the many thousands of visitors here.”