I was a little surprised the other night when the big Columbia Basin Trust grant was approved for the Smoke Eaters, “Buy the Bus,” project, but it was pleasantly.
The money from CBT is supposed to be used on projects that would have a positive impact on the area – and would otherwise not be undertaken – and this qualifies.
I have, over the years, tried to explain to people that whether they are hockey fans or not the they should be supportive of the Smokie Junior A franchise because the team has a positive impact on the whole region, economically and socially, that can’t be replicated by any other enterprise. As I am certain reports of the major CBT cash infusion to the team will rile some, I will do it again here.
The Smoke Eaters spend money, a lot of it, in local establishments.
The Smoke Eaters draw in money to the area, particularly downtown Trail, from sources that would not be attracted here otherwise. A minimum (in a non playoff year) of 30 games at Cominco Arena means a minimum of 1500 people from outside the Kootenays travel here and spend here and SEE here that are unlikely to do so for any other reasons.
The Smoke Eaters bring a few extra students to area schools and more volunteers to area enterprises, and players are generally very positive role models – not least because they play at the Junior A level so they can remain focused on furthering their education.
The Smoke Eaters represent a bit of Trail culture, both current and historical, throughout B.C. in generally very positive ways.
The Smoke Eaters existence means local youth have the opportunity to play at the highest level of junior hockey consistent with the optimization of opportunities to further their education – in their home area. This means, too, that local people get to support and appreciate their efforts for longer than if the local Junior A opportunity did not exist.
The Smoke Eaters provide clean, exciting entertainment to more than 1,000 local residents over the course of a season and their tenancy at Cominco Arena validates the high standard of maintenance at that facility.
The bus project will have a long term impact on the sustainability of the franchise here. Travel costs will lessen and the vehicle will actually generate revenue during periods when the Smokies don’t need it. There are pre-existing offers to lease it from local companies that organize excursions. There are also offers of low cost maintenance for the bus itself.
If the CBT is not going to do what I think should be its obsession – provide funding so that every home in the basin has access to ample potable water – by funding water-based infrastructure projects, this Smokie endeavour is as worthwhile a project as any upon which to expend its (our) money.