STEP (Sport Tourism Event Partenership) St. John’s was created almost two years ago to advance the Newfoundland and Labrador capital region as a premiere sport tourism host and destination. Likewise, municipalities across the country are looking for ways to pool regional resources so that they have a better chance of winning large and prestigious sport events. Angela Kryhul spoke with representatives of three STEP stakeholders: Danny Breen, STEP chair and councillor, City of St. John’s; Jeannette Yetman, manager, sport tourism, Destination St. John’s; and Seamus O’Keefe, consultant and STEP’s day-to-day manager.
What was the impetus for creating STEP St. John’s?
Seamus O’Keefe: STEP was an outcome of a consultant’s report initiated by Destination St. John’s to understand the sport tourism market: how big it is, what resources are available within local municipalities, and how we would successfully enter and compete in that market with other municipalities throughout the country. The end result was the formation of STEP – Sport Tourism Event Partnership – which includes seven or eight municipalities in the Metro St. John’s area.
How has STEP improved the region’s ability to bid on sport events?
Seamus O’Keefe: One of the benefits is information sharing. Our bid process has improved significantly, and we’re more efficient in our approach. We know what to expect, where the funding would come from, who should be taking the lead. Our challenge has been to upgrade
the collective knowledge and resources so that all of our sport organizations are in a position to bid and to host.
Danny Breen: One of the challenges, as a municipality, was always the funding of events. Now we have a way to streamline that process. Another advantage is being able to access a [larger] volunteer pool by developing a [collective] volunteer database.
Can the region now bid on sport events it might not have previously?
Danny Breen: It’s more about ensuring that when we are bidding on an event, we do it well and that we understand what’s involved in the event coming here. We’re trying to establish a network for individual organizations so that when they have an opportunity to bid, the infrastructure is in place to help, that they know the benefits of the bid as well as the risks associated with it, and how we can manage those risks.
What can other municipalities do to harness synergies in their regions?
Seamus O’Keefe: One of the most important things is to have the right people at the table: people of influence who have the ability to make decisions and cause change. Take your time to do your due diligence, understand your positives and negatives, your strengths and weaknesses, and really go after your opportunities.
Danny Breen: You can’t be everything in this business. Identify the sports and events that people want to see, encourage the people who are involved in the organizations to see the opportunities and help them bring them to fruition.
Jeannette Yetman: Understand your limits. Know whether you have the capacity, the facilities, and the strength in the sport.