Ottawa 2017 organizers, hoteliers prepare for Red Bull Crashed Ice weekend

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Some 600,000 pounds of lumber, numerous hotel bookings and more than a fair share of hype have gone into preparations for Red Bull Crashed Ice, one of the first marquee events scheduled for what’s been billed as a year full of celebrations for Canada’s 150th anniversary.

Ottawa 2017 head Guy Laflamme says he has been “crazy, crazy wild busy” in the lead-up to the weekend’s events, but is confident the event will run as smooth as ice.

 

Speaking of ice, Mr. Laflamme says the week’s warm weather has not ruined conditions on the course, and that the drop in temperature and anticipated bit of snow will “add some magic to the site.”

“The course is pretty spectacular when you see the scope of the infrastructure that’s been brought in,” he says.

While Ottawa 2017 has spent more than $1 million in the event, including costs for municipal services and borrowing space from Parks Canada and the National Capital Commission, Red Bull has put millions more into the event that will cap off its 2016-2017 Crashed Ice season.

The entire project requires a workforce of 150 people, including carpenters, electricians and other contractors, and 10,000 hours of labour to construct, according to Red Bull. Mr. Laflamme adds that Red Bull has increased the amount of local labour it’s used in the track’s construction this past week, but did not have specific figures.

The track itself is 375 metres long with a 35-metre vertical drop. The ice surface, which has been sprayed with water for the past few days by a team of 20 ice makers, is 1,500 square metres and is 12 centimetres thick.

The track features 600,000 pounds of scaffolding, 123,500 pounds of steel beams and 1,400 plywood sheets. Ottawa 2017 is also working with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative to repurpose more than 85 per cent of wood in the track for other events throughout the year and for use in Habitat for Humanity and ReStores projects.

The area around the track has capacity for 20,000 spectators, but viewing platforms are being set up in Major’s Hill Park and screens broadcasting the event will be set up along York Street on both nights as well as along Wellington Street on Saturday. Mr. Laflamme anticipates more than 100,000 live viewers.

The event will also be broadcast by Red Bull around the world, including on Sportsnet and French-language channel TVA. Mr. Laflamme says the broadcast reach is in the tens of millions.

Tourism officials typically covet television coverage of sporting events, which are typically interspersed with attractive cityscape shots and iconic images that showcase the host city as a destination.

“We couldn't dream of a better postcard early in the year of our most scenic backdrops,” he says. “This event really illustrates what Ottawa 2017 is all about: Presenting traditional heritage aspects of our city but in an eclectic, vibrant way.”

Mr. Laflamme adds that if all goes well and Red Bull considers the event a success, the extreme sports brand could bring Crashed Ice back to Ottawa in three years.

Next door to the track, the Chateau Laurier is nearly fully booked for the two-night event. Deneen Perrin, spokesperson for the hotel, says there’s already a great vibe at Chateau, and that expectations remain strong for the remainder of Ottawa 2017.

Down the road at the Lord Elgin Hotel, general manager David Smythe told the OBJ that as of Tuesday, there was still room for weekend bookings at the Lord Elgin and its sister hotels, but that there was “definitely a pick-up” with Crashed Ice over previous years.

He says that so far the year has been fairly traditional in terms of bookings, but that he anticipates demand to rise in the spring, summer and fall months.