Can-Am games to blaze trail for York County
York County's hosting of the Can-Am Police-Fire Games next year will be a test case.
The local visitors bureau is going beyond a core service of selling and marketing the region to showcasing its management capabilities with the help of community volunteers.
The games have the potential to do for event management what the Keystone State Games did for the county in terms of attracting sporting events from far and wide, said Anne Druck, president of the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The bureau started pursuing the Can-Am games several years ago with the help of local fire, police and public officials along the way, Druck said.
With many of the sporting events York County hosts, the rights holder or owner of the games will organize aspects such as setting up brackets, registering teams or getting referees scheduled, Druck said.
That's not the case with the Can-Am games, though the oversight organization does support efforts through their knowledge, feedback and site visits, she said.
After leading the bid to secure the games a couple years ago, the bureau is providing professional staffing to support the volunteers' work, Druck said.
It also created the York County Tourism Foundation, a nonprofit under which the local Can-Am games are being organized, she said.
The foundation also facilitates the games benefitting the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Druck said.
About 2,000 competitors are expected, leading to an estimated economic impact of about $3 million to $4 million.
It's hard to tell exactly how having event-management experience will help attract new business in the future and where that business will come from, Druck said.
Then again, it was difficult to point to exactly how the Keystone State Games would help and what events it would help to attract, Druck said.
York County landed the Keystone State Games in 2004 for the following three years. The games are dubbed Pennsylvania's largest amateur athletic festival.
The deal was extended for the three years after that. It became a "feather in our cap" for attracting other sporting events, Druck said.
That includes the Can-Am games.
Considering the success of the Keystone State Games, the Can-Am games initially sounded like something the county could host because they are both multievent, multivenue undertakings, said Laura Gurreri, director of sales for the visitors bureau.
She met and talked with representatives from the Can-Am games several years ago at a convention, and that got the ball rolling toward York County's successful bid, she said.
Sports today are a significant part of the mix of events bringing people to York County.
The visitors bureau's Sport York sales efforts — netting figure skating to volleyball — led to nearly 18,000 nights stayed in hotel rooms in York County for the 2011-12 fiscal year, according to the bureau's annual report.
Retired York City Fire/Rescue Services Chief John Senft is chairman of the executive committee of the York Can-Am Police-Fire Games.
A representative from the visitors bureau had contacted him while he was fire chief to find out what he knew about the Can-Am games and whether it would be a good event to pursue, Senft said.
He said he was somewhat familiar with the games and, after some research, saw it would be a huge win for the area to host them.
There is great potential to draw a lot of people — maybe even beyond the projected numbers — considering how far south and east the games will be held, he said.
It puts the event within a day's drive of many public safety departments — including federal agencies, Senft said.
The games are a mix of occupation-based events, such as a toughest firefighter challenge or shooting competitions for police, he said. There also are competitions that are not job-specific, such as golf and softball.
When it's all said and done, hundreds of volunteers will have been needed to do everything from organizing events to making sure water is available at competitions, he said.
"It is very, very broad," Senft said.