The visionary behind Brantford’s Tournament Capital of Ontario designation will soon leave the rink one last time.
TCO co-ordinator Pat Shewchuk is retiring on Dec. 31 after leading the city-funded sport and tourism promotion organization since 1999.
“The highlight for me has been to have the privilege of working with so many great volunteers,” Shewchuk said. “It is the group of people I have worked with over the years that has made the TCO so successful.”
In the mid-1990s, Shewchuk read an article in the former Brant News that analyzed similarities in population, size and volunteer base between Brantford and Kamloops, British Columbia, which is branded that province’s “Tournament City.”
“The essence of our communities was very similar,” Shewchuk said. “I thought we would have some sort of structure in place (for sport tourism), but we did not.”
Shewchuk spoke with businesspeople, minor sports organizations and Mayor Chris Friel about getting the city designated the “Tournament Capital of Ontario.”
“They were very supportive,” Shewchuk said. “It really helped showcase what the community was already doing. It was a marketing and branding tool to profile sports.”
City councillors unanimously supported the initiative in May 1998 and, in June that same year, former Brantford MPP Ron Johnson prepared a private member’s bill that would designate the city the Tournament Capital of Ontario. The Legislative Assembly of Ontario passed the bill.
Brantford Mayor Chris Friel said Shewchuk will be missed after her retirement on Dec. 31.
“Pat is an innovator,” Friel said. “It’s quite remarkable to see the success we have had from her innovation. She will be sorely missed within the corporation, but we wish her and her family all the best.”
Bill Page, a facilities supervisor with the city and Shewchuk’s first supervisor with the TCO, defined her as “driven.”
“She had a tremendous vision and passion for what sport tourism can do for the city,” Page said. “Anyone who comes in now will maintain the momentum she started.”
Brant News general manager Len Offless, who has worked with Shewchuk on local projects, said her retirement will leave a void.
“The city is losing one of its greatest promoters,” Offless said. “Pat lived and breathed the sport tourism sector in Brantford.
“She had a vision where she would build Brantford’s image through tourism and sport. Sometimes, you don’t realize how much a person does for the community until they are no longer doing it. I can tell you, Pat will be missed.”
A dinner party for Shewchuk will be held at Mohawk Park pavilion on Dec. 12 beginning at 5:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 each and are available by contacting Mary Ann Blunt at 519-756-1500 ext. 5500.