As he watched the finale of the Red Bull Crashed ice Championships in Quebec City Saturday, Mayor Jim Diodati had one thing on his mind: Bring this to Niagara Falls.
Hardly a connoisseur of the sport, Diodati attended the event with members of Niagara Falls Tourism, the Niagara Parks Commission and the CAA Winter Festival of Lights to see what the big deal is.
Turns out, it’s a very big deal. About 105,000 people crammed the heart of Old Quebec to watch the final race of the season, with every hotel and restaurant packed all weekend.
“I saw it on TV once and thought, ‘This is crazy, what are they doing?’ It’s like a combination of bobsledding, downhill skiing and roller derby,” he said during the train ride home Sunday.
“It was incredible. I didn’t have much insight on how big the event was, but now that I’ve been there and experienced it, there’s a lot of energy around the event.”
In Quebec City, organizers constructed a 350-metre course through the main tourist section, allowing anyone to watch the races free of charge. Each course is four metres wide and full of twists, jumps and drops. The race season this year included stops in Sweden, the Netherlands and the U.S.
Diodati is lobbying to get one of the stops in Niagara Falls this year, either in November or December to coincide with the CAA Winter Festival of Lights. The proposed course would start at the Skylon Tower parking lot, head down steep Murray St., then turn left into the finish line at Queen Victoria Park.
Funding is being sought from the Celebrate Ontario Blockbuster Event fund, but an additional $400,000 from the Tourism Partnership of Niagara and four of the city’s business improvement areas would also be needed.
With a built-in audience for the event – about 80,000 people per stop – Diodati estimates the economic impact “in the area of $10 million.”
“Quebec City is pretty far for everybody … Niagara Falls is a lot more central and accessible to a lot more people. “
Red Bull Canada Ltd. spokeswoman Josee Laperriere would not confirm where the 2012/13 races would take place.
“At the moment, the calendar is not confirmed,” she said Sunday. “We’re not able to announce any stops. That should be done in the next few weeks.”
Claiming the title this year was Kyle Croxall of Mississauga after accumulating 3,000 points over the course of the season’s four stops.
Diodati is hoping Niagara Falls launches the next series, which would also be the perfect kickoff to the Festival of Lights.
“You could tell, meeting with the mayor of Quebec City, they are just thrilled with the event,” said Diodati. “They love it, they love what it’s doing for the community. We would love to have that same impact in Niagara Falls.”