The Leafs’ season is underway; the Raptors’ season starts shortly; the Argos are in the exciting final stretch; the TFC are heading to post-season play; AND THE JAYS SWEPT THE FIRST ROUND OF THE AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS. Life, for a sports fan, or really any fan of drama and entertainment, doesn’t get any better than this.
The experience of seeing the games live at the Air Canada Centre and Rogers Centre and BMO Field can’t be rivalled – the bragging rights alone for “being there” are worth it – but the exhilaration and sense of community are also huge watching from a sports bar or in the fan zones outside the arenas. The excitement can be felt all over the city.
The other thing that can be felt all over the city is the uptick in revenues for hundreds of Toronto businesses. Hotels, taxis, restaurants, bars – all benefit from a robust sports entertainment industry. I’ve written before about the importance of sports to the tourism industry, but it can’t be overstated: the fact that Toronto has two of “Canada’s Teams” in the Jays and Raptors and just the general cachet that comes with being a big league city, benefits the Toronto region immensely.
Also, the international media coverage is a huge benefit. Between the Raptors going to the conference finals earlier this year and the Jays reaching the league championship in back-to-back years, we’ve had prime exposure across North America showing the energy of our city. And people are noticing. The visuals of thousands of fans in Jurassic Park outside the ACC and the Bird’s Nest in Nathan Phillips Square, are powerful symbols of an exciting city. And the in-stadium noise is something we may take for granted, but for visitors, it’s astounding. Just last week the American broadcasters in the Cleveland- Boston series remarked that Cleveland fans were getting so loud it was almost “Toronto loud.” Almost.
This is a big-market city in sports terms – one of the biggest in North America, in fact – and that size and importance help make Toronto a must-see sports destination. People want to be part of a scene with energy and passion and Toronto is demonstrating that through our pro sports teams and their fans.
With the Grey Cup in Toronto this year and the Junior Hockey Championships on the horizon, this is a special time.
Let’s enjoy the ride.