By RENALDO DORSETT
THE Bahamas’ sports tourism product has made an impact in several sports well-known to Bahamians and will now venture into new territory.
The Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League (NHL) are scheduled to visit the capital this week for a series of clinics and community outreach programmes.
The Panthers are expected to visit the Princess Margaret Hospital and conduct a youth hockey clinic for children aged seven to 15 years at the Kendal Isaacs Gymnasium, 9am to noon on Saturday, September 6.
Greg Rolle, director of sports tourism, said his department set out to dominate the South Florida market and has now worked in conjunction with the Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins and now a new venture for the Bahamas in the hockey arena with the Panthers.
“The Panthers are going to come to the Bahamas for the first time. We are going to partner with Jet Blue and what we are going to do is an outreach programme,” said Mr Rolle. “We’re going to work with urban renewal, get some of the inner-city kids and show them the game of hockey. Instead of playing it on ice, we are going to play in the streets. The whole idea is to have an outreach programme to show the partnerships that we have.”
The Panthers’ organisation previously visited the Bahamas when their Ice Dancers conducted a calendar shoot in Grand Bahama.
Rolle said the performance of the sports tourism unit shows the Bahamas possesses the ability to host major events.
“Our goals are two-fold, we want to increase visitor arrival and expenditure and our second goal is to increase opportunities for Bahamians to get a ‘piece of the pie’ when it comes to sports tourism. We keep it simple and we have specific targets for what we want to do,” he said.
“Ultimately we want to have a hockey exhibition in the Bahamas. If we can do what we did with the Miami Heat, with the versatility we have with the ballroom to transform it into an arena and training centre, then we can do it to hockey. If we can do it with hockey, they will see that the Bahamas, we may be a small country, but we have big ambitions when it comes to making things like this happen. We are really doing a lot of things in the travel and trade arena, promoting sun, sand and sea. In terms of sports, people don’t really know that much about what we are doing. That’s the reason why we went after the Miami Heat to show that we could have such an event in the Bahamas, and we’re trying to reach other big marquis events.”
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