With the new floor covering for the hockey arena at the Midnight Sun Complex, the Town of Inuvik is eying the potential to host more conferences and events to help support the local economy.
The new flooring, which sits on top of the ice, was used for the first time at the Northwest Territories Tourism conference early November.
“I think the conference gave Inuvik a good opportunity to show that we can host these events,” said Mayor Jim McDonald, speaking at a tourism stakeholders meeting Thursday, Nov 24.
“Leading up to the conference, there was lots of doubt and it was almost that they were doing us a favour that they would bring the conference to Inuvik and it was going to mean them running a deficit and all of the reasons why it wouldn’t work… (But) we pulled off a great conference. It certainly shows Inuvik has the facilities and the people to do these type of conferences.”
Jackie Challis, who used to work for the town and now runs her own company, Northern Eventures, said she heard great feedback about the event.
“The floor went down on a Wednesday and was back out on Friday so there could be Friday ice time. I would love for us to see more of those conferences here,” she said, adding that the events should include shop-local programs, cultural performances, and more than just meetings in a community hall.
She said the town has almost outgrown the community hall space in the MSC, leaving only the hockey arena and East Three School as options for bigger shows.
Senior administrative officer Grant Hood talked about finding the happy medium between keeping the arena open for community use and opening it for bigger events.
“Part of us wants to fill that place with something every weekend, but on the other hand it is a rink,” he said, adding that the conferences don’t turn enough of a profit to cover the MSC’s $3-million-per-year price tag.
“We go into a hole on this building every year. I’m not trying to make up $3 million on four events.”
He agreed with the suggestion for more outside activities for visitors to bring money into the local economy.
“We don’t have to think big,” said Hood. “A lot of littles can add up to a big. Maybe you look at even a 20-person thing coming in. Especially those groups, they like to spend money.”
Busting the Dempster Highway myth
John Cournoyea, manager of tourism and parks for the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment in Inuvik, said that a lot of tourists coming from Dawson City are visiting Tombstone National Park and then turning around, believing that the Dempster Highway is difficult to drive.
“It may take you a little longer but it’s not really that bad a road,” said McDonald, adding it’s discouraging to hear people turning away from that opportunity.
Either way, all tourism stakeholders seemed to think a rush is coming to Tuk this summer once the ferries open.
“They’re going to be overwhelmed,” said Cournoyea.
He said Inuvik needs to develop a reputation so people want to visit.
Challis said the rush Tuk will be seeing this summer struck her on the highway opening Nov. 15 as more than 50 cars drove into town and community members watched from their homes or snowmobiles.
“Whatever day our ferries open, get ready, Tuk,” said Challis.