Figure skaters attract crowds, cash

26,000 attend week-long national event in Victoria

Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam skate the free dance program Sunday during the 2011 BMO Canadian figure-skating championships at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. More than 26

Alexandra Paul and Mitchell Islam skate the free dance program Sunday during the 2011 BMO Canadian figure-skating championships at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre. More than 26

Aside from stellar athletic performances, the 2011 BMO Canadian figure-skating championships also brought a burst of tourism activity to Victoria.

Between Friday and Sunday, 22,000 people attended the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre for the seniors competitions. Another 4,500 attended the novice and junior competitions that ran Monday through Thursday last week.

“We’re pleased with the attendance,” said Barb MacDonald, director of corporate communications for Skate Canada. “We really like the arena and we felt the crowds were awesome.”

The men’s event boasted a near sell-out audience, she added.

Tourism Victoria helped assemble the bid to bring the event to Victoria for the first time in more than 20 years.

In its bid submission, Tourism Victoria estimated event officials and participants would require 3,400 hotel room bookings, said Helen Welch, vice president of marketing. The estimate does not include the number of spectators likely to book rooms.

“Events like this are incredibly important, especially in January,” she said.

Tourism Victoria does not estimate the number of spectators arriving from outside Victoria, but anecdotally, Welch said she spoke to fans arriving from as far away as New Brunswick.

The championships were previously held in Victoria in 1988 and 1978.

rholmen@vicnews.com