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The Wings, and a Prayer

August 21, 2012
The Wings, and a Prayer

When National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman and players’ rep Donald Fehr meet tomorrow in Toronto, the outcome could send ripples all the way to Traverse City.

The fate of the 2012–13 hockey season looms, and already the annual Prospects Camp has been cancelled at Centre Ice. The Ticker wondered: What would the impact be in TC if the upcoming Detroit Red Wings training camp is also scratched?

Some 275 locals volunteer at the camp each September, with many planning vacations around the annual event. About 50 local businesses support the camp as sponsors, according to training camp volunteer director Ann Reeves.

“It would be a huge loss to Centre Ice financially,” explains Reeves. “The golf outing and the training camp mean $150,000 to $200,000 to Centre Ice. The risk is viable. Centre Ice wouldn’t shut down, but it would have an impact on other programs that are subsidized by the camp. It would be a huge blow to Centre Ice from a business standpoint.”

It would also be a huge blow to hockey fans who travel from across the state to watch the Red Wings train in TC. If those Wing Nuts don’t come to town it will certainly impact the bottom lines of restaurants, merchants, motels and hotels.

“I do know that this is a significant piece of lodging business for Traverse City, providing us with several hundred rooms reservations – often made months ahead of time in blocks of rooms – at a crucial period between Labor Day and the start of the fall color season,” says Mike Norton, spokesman for the Traverse Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It’s certainly accurate to say that we’re disappointed with the way things have turned out this year, particularly because it has a substantial impact on coming years – it always takes a long time to recover from an event that gets cancelled. People find other things to do, they break long-standing habits, they stop coming, and some of them simply won’t be back even when the event resumes.”

On the other hand, TC isn’t being left high and dry.

“Bookings have been at historic levels this year, and many people have been waiting for September to take advantage of lower room rates and the more relaxed feel of TC in the fall,” adds Norton. “We also have a very large athletic event going on – the TBAYS Autumn Classic Summer Tournament – on Sept. 15 and 16. All in all, I think we’ll be able to absorb many of those lost room nights.”

Bettman previously said the league will lock out the players Sept. 15 if a deal is not done.

But Reeves remains hopeful that the training camp activities will start with the annual golf outing on Sept. 21 and conclude with the Red & White game on Sept. 25.

“I’m going to remain optimistic and hope that a settlement is reached,” she tells The Ticker.


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