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Heating Up: Erie’s Ice Hockey Action Poised for $5M Impact

7 Oct, 2021

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The ice is on fire in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Between now and March, a total of 10 tournaments will be moving into town. (An additional two took place over the summer). And that bodes well for the Erie sports economy.

“Hockey has been a major area of focus for Erie in the last several years,” says Emily Biddle, marketing and communications director for the Erie Sports Commission.

In part, she notes, this is attributable to new facilities being built, and others being renovated.

“One of our primary facilities, ERIEBANK Sports Park, finished a major renovation in fall 2019 that turned two indoor fields into a dual-pad ice rink. Just months later, a second single-pad facility finished a renovation, making it available for tournaments. So, in 2018 when Erie only had two ice pads available (both of which had primary full-time tenants), we now have five ice pads, four of which have been renovated in the last three years.”

And considering ice sheets can also find use for figure skating, ice dancing, broomball and curling, it’s obvious that economic impact could grow exponentially. The estimated income from the hockey tournaments alone is expected to be nearly $5 million.

Erie has been courting the hockey market, Biddle adds.

“We have placed a focus on hockey in our marketing, focusing on the new and renovated ice pads.”

And obviously, it’s working. The 10 tournaments moving in this year, and early next, include the following:

Scheduled hockey tournaments include:

  • TCS Hockey Erie Bay Cup – September 10-12
  • Lake Effect Hockey Back to School Challenge – September 17-19
  • Lake Effect Hockey Fall Challenge – October 8-11
  • Lake Effect Hockey Veterans Day Weekend Jr. Otters Showcase – November 12-14
  • Erie White Out Weekend (hosted by Premier Ice Prospects) – December 10-12
  • Lake Effect Hockey Iceberg Mite Challenge – December 17-19
  • TCS Hockey Erie MLK Ice Cup – January 14-17
  • Lake Effect Hockey Winter Challenge – January 21-23
  • 28th Annual Sarah Backstrom Memorial Tournament – February 18-21
  • Lake Effect Hockey Spring Invitational – March 25-27

And even Erie was impressed by the number of tournaments.

“It’s unusually large for us based on ice availability,” Biddle notes. During the 2019-2020 season, the ESC hosted nine tournaments. That would’ve been the first full season for ice availability in our region, had it not been cut off by COVID. In 2021-22, we will host a total of 12, counting the two summer tournaments.”

Seven of the tournaments will be hosted by local hockey tournament organizer Lake Effect Hockey, including the 28th Annual Sarah Backstrom Memorial Tournament.

“Youth hockey has taken off in Erie recently, and we’re thrilled that Lake Effect Hockey can host monthly tournaments to meet that demand,” said Jason Fowler, owner of Lake Effect Hockey. “Our tournaments have welcomed teams from Arizona, Colorado, California and beyond. They know our tournaments provide a competitive and positive experience, and that our region is an outstanding place to visit, which keeps them coming back.”

At the moment, all the tournaments are youth-centric; Erie is not presently hosting adult hockey tournaments; however, it might be just a matter of time.

“Erie has a strong hockey base outside of tournaments. Our Erie Insurance Arena is home to the Erie Otters of the OHL (and there is a long list of current pros and Stanley Cup winners who played in Erie recently), and Mercyhurst University is home to both an NCAA Division I men’s and women’s team, which hosted the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four this past March.”

“The addition of the twin-pad ice rink at ERIEBANK Sports Park, as well as renovations to Erie’s other outstanding ice facilities, have made it possible for us to host and support major youth hockey events. These tournaments draw an enormous number of athletes to our region during the months when our tourism industry needs it most, and create a much-needed influx of visitor spending to Erie County,” said Mark Jeanneret, Erie Sports Commission executive director.

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