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The Shriners' $30-million visit

g and compass

Vancouver Sun

The Shriners' $30-million visit

Little red hats will be everywhere as 15,000 visitors descend on Vancouver

Matthew DeBock

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Vancouver Sun
Shriners from around North America surround director general Robert Emery (front centre). Emery, from North Vancouver, is in charge of the logistics of the event.
The Shriners convention that begins today will be in town for just a week, but long after it is over, the economic effects will be felt -- to the tune of more than $30 million.

"We should be busy, it should have quite an impact on sales," said Michelle Thérien, manager of La Casa del Habano cigar shop on Robson street.

"I can't wait to see the little red hats."

She said she expects sales in her store to jump by 20 per cent during the convention, largely because American Shriners can't get Cuban cigars in their own country.

"But I'm being conservative," she said. "They've got to get a Cuban."

Beginning today and running through Thursday, June 27, the 2002 Shriners' Imperial Council Session is expected to be Vancouver's largest-ever convention, and will bring at least 15,000 visitors to the Lower Mainland.

The exact number is unknown because the event does not require pre-registration.

"The planning of this was five [or] six years ago, and it was very touch-and-go if Vancouver could hold it," said Shrine spokesman Jim Harrison. "Normally, if the Shrine convention comes to Canada it goes to Toronto."

Vancouver was chosen for the first time because it is home to Kenneth Smith, the Imperial Potentate of the Shriners.

According to Tourism Vancouver, about 5,000 hotel rooms are booked for the event, and most will be at least double occupancy, as many Shrine attendees bring their spouses and families.

"The impact will be millions of dollars for the city," said B.C. Shrine Potentate Stanley Yee.

In fact, the event, hosted by the Gizeh Shrine of B.C. and the Yukon, will have an overall economic impact in the tens of millions of dollars.

According to estimates from Tourism Vancouver, the convention's 1,600 delegates and minimum 13,500 attendees will spend approximately $13.3 million for accommodations, food and transportation alone. This spending will create millions more in economic activity, translating into hundreds of jobs.

"Our total economic impact for the Shriners is $28,150,951," said Tourism Vancouver spokewoman Debbie Reynolds.

That includes nearly $8 million in wages and salaries, or 333 jobs, and $6 million in taxes to all levels of government.

Shrine general director Bob Emery agreed with Tourism Vancouver's economic estimates. He said a similar impact study was done when the Shriners visited Dallas, Texas, a few years ago.

"If you have 15,000 people show up, it drops about $30 million into the city," he said.

Reynolds said this figure does not include spending other than for accommodation, food and transportation.

"What they might spend shopping, we can't estimate," Reynolds said. "I don't know what they're going to drop in the city."

Local retailers are hoping it will be a substantial amount. The Freedom store on Robson street is offering a special Shriners' discount. David Martin said he hopes the promotion will help draw Shriners in to buy souvenir T-shirts and merchandise.

"Not only are they supporting the economy while they're here, but they're creating more work," Martin said. "I think it'll be great."

Shopping should put the total economic impact well over the $30-million mark.

These estimates also exclude the cost of actually hosting the event.

Emery said the convention will cost about $500,000.

"That's just what we pay for things," he said. "We have a number of venues where we have competitions, and we have insurance costs that probably run about $8,000 to $10,000 for different events."

Emery said the most expensive competition site is the Cloverdale fairgrounds in Surrey.

"A number of Shrine centres have mounted groups similar to the musical ride of the RCMP," he said. "So we had to rent that facility, and the barn stalls, and feed and everything else."

Another big expense is the famous parade.

"We've been working with the city to keep the parade costs down, because it's a good thing for the city, to have the parade here," Reynolds said. "Primarily, 1,500 people are in meetings. The rest are here for the parade and to celebrate their philanthropy. This group doesn't have a lot of expenses."

Emery also said most of the expenses the Shrine does incur will be recouped through the rental of spaces at an exhibition and trade show.

"That helps pay for the convention," he said. "The convention has to stand on its own feet."

Until now, the largest meeting to be held in Vancouver was 1996's AIDS conference.

"The AIDS conference did drop a lot more money," Reynolds said. "Meeting-related expenses were big."

She said that meeting included a lot of audio and visual costs, plus the rental of B.C. Place stadium and G.M. Place arena for large-scale events.


Two Shriners parades will take place this coming week --

on Tuesday, June 25, from 1 p.m to 4 p.m.; and on Wednesday, June 26, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Both parades will take place in downtown Vancouver, starting out at the Granville Street bridge and moving east along Pacific Boulevard to B.C. Place Stadium.

Marching motorized units will represent Shriners' chapters across North America, from as far away as Mexico and Panama.

Shriners say the parades will be made up of mini cars and scooters, as well as custom Harley-Davidsons, antique autos and classic cars. Clowns and Keystone Kops will join drum corps, brass bands and horse patrols.

During the parades, Vancouver police say the following road closures will be in effect:

- westbound lane of Pacific Boulevard;

- Cambie bridge off-ramp to Pacific Boulevard;

- intersections of Davie Street and Pacific Boulevard, and Drake Street and Pacific Boulevard;

- intersections of all streets connecting to the eastbound lane of Pacific Boulevard, from Hornby Street to B.C. Place Stadium.

© Copyright 2002 Vancouver Sun

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