TORONTO – No one knows who will claim victory Sunday at the 100th Grey Cup at the Rogers Centre – the Toronto Argonauts or the Calgary Stampeders – but it’s a safe bet the real winner will be the city of Toronto.
From taxi drivers and restaurant servers to hotel operators and pleasure providers, business will be booming as football fans descend on Toronto for a weekend of festivities.
Andrew Weir of Tourism Toronto anticipates Grey Cup weekend will be one of the busiest of the year, even with the hometown team playing.
“People travel to the Grey Cup from around the country, independent of what teams are in the game,” he said. “Football fans make a decision to be here.”
Weir added that a lot of Argos fans will be coming into the city from around Ontario.
What’s more, it’s not only businesses located near the Rogers Centre that will benefit from the flood of football fanatics. “Because of the 100th celebration, the Grey Cup festival footprint is bigger,” said Weir, referring to events at Yonge-Dundas Square and Nathan Philips Square.
Weir added sports fans are likely to explore attractions like the Hockey Hall of Fame while in the city.
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Sunday’s Grey Cup game has been sold out for months but tickets can be had from scalpers both in person and online – for a price. On Craigslist, dozens of people are offering Grey Cup tickets for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Four seats in the front row of section 519 are for sale on Craigslist at $1,000 apiece.
Tourism Toronto is offering Grey Cup tickets and hotel packages on its website. A pair of platinum tickets and two nights at the Delta Chelsea Hotel can be had for $1,381.
Football fans and other tourists hoping to score a cheap hotel room on their own this weekend are likely out of luck. A quick search of downtown hotels shows no availability at EconoLodge, Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Best Western, Courtyard by Marriott, Sheraton Centre or Westin Harbour Castle.
Rooms at the Hyatt Regency on King Street are going for $459 a night. The Hilton on Richmond Street West is offering rooms starting at $429.
In chic Yorkville, rooms at the Hazelton Hotel start at $495 a night and the Park Hyatt has space at a cost of $449 and up. The Marriott on Bloor Street seems like a bargain with rates starting at $369 a night. According to its website, the Four Seasons is booked solid.
Other upscale hotels in the downtown core have rooms available this weekend, including the Ritz-Carlton (from $535) and Trump Hotel ($545 and up).
One of the businesses expecting to cash in this weekend is the Brass Rail on Yonge Street, where manager Bill Greer said he expects a 50 per cent spike in business on the Saturday night before the big game.
Still, Greer said he would have preferred to see different teams in the Grey Cup. The popular strip club would do better with an influx of Alouettes fans than Argos fans and, although visitors from Calgary will be good for business, “when Saskatchewan is involved we always do well.”