"The Games at the end of the train."
That's the new catchphrase for the BC Highland Games and Scottish Festival, which welcomes thousands of visitors to Coquitlam's Town Centre Park each June.
And with the opening of the Evergreen Extension tomorrow (Friday) — and with the Lafarge Lake-Douglas station at the southwest corner of the park — the festival's organizing chair, Mike Chisholm, said he expects the new rapid-transit line will usher in thousands of more guests.
Indeed, the $1.3-billion line is being incorporated into all marketing and advertising strategies, from festival and community programs to city tourism maps.
Businesses and cultural groups with Evergreen stations close by are bracing for the rush of new visitors to Port Moody, and to the east and west sides of Coquitlam.
Alberto Gonzalez of the Hot Salsa Dance Zone, which hosts Saturday dance parties until 12:30 a.m. in the Evergreen Cultural Centre, hopes his weekends will become extra busy.
"From Vancouver, Burnaby, New West or Surrey, wherever people live, they can come out and join us," Gonzalez said. "Now, it's a much easier way to come and enjoy our parties riding SkyTrain with the new station just 60 m away."
Retailers at Coquitlam Centre, are also hoping for a new wave shoppers, with two stations within walking distance: Lincoln, which is located in the northeast corner of the mall parking lot, and Coquitlam Central, which is across the street.
Marketing director Deborah Stetz said the mall will kick off an extensive media campaign to coincide with tomorrow's launch. Its "Your Runway" brand will be prominent along the Millennium Line to capture primary and secondary markets. As well, the mall will wrap its logo around two SkyTrain cars along the line and, throughout December, it will host pop-up parties at Lincoln station to entice shoppers to step inside.
The mall's Street Team will also be at the New West, Burnaby and Coquitlam stations this month to hand out Compass card wallets that include mall gift cards and prizes.
"The launch of the Evergreen [Extension] is a tremendous opportunity to introduce Coquitlam Centre to a new audience and customer base in New Westminster and Burnaby," she said, "and having a strong presence at the new Evergreen stations will encourage locals to remain loyal to shopping at Coquitlam Centre as it is even easier to get to it now."
Meanwhile, Coquitlam's tourism manager, Eric Kalnins, said the city will promote its travel and experience guide via social media to get the word out to Evergreen users. Its map of the municipality shows the closest hotels, golf courses, recreation centres, off-leash dog parks, trails, skate bowls, civic facilities and other attractions.
Each month, he said, the city will release a bulletin to offer highlights around town plus bus connections to get there. For example, want to get to the Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex for a Coquitlam Express game? Take Bus 156 from Burquitlam station. Want to hike at Minnekhada regional park? Hop on Bus C38 from Coquitlam Central station.
The Evergreen Extension "will really open up a new market of day trippers — from all over the Metro Vancouver region — who don't want to drive," Kalnins said. "Where else can you go in the summer with a couple of rods, get off SkyTrain and fish right there?"
Kalnins said the buzz about Coquitlam has ramped up. Recently, he was interviewed on Vancouver's Roundhouse Radio 98.3 FM to talk about the impact of the Evergreen Extension.
The tourism spinoff will benefit Port Moody as well, Mayor Mike Clay said.
The service industry as well as the popular Brewers' Row will draw new customers, as will niche businesses such as Thrifty Foods, Wish Upon a Star and Runners' Den. But "we have to figure out how we can bundle the Port Moody experience. How do we make it important for people from Langley to visit our city? We want people to buy local but we also want regional prosperity. We don't want to create competition."
He believes "selling" Port Moody as a place to rest and relax may be the answer: Sip on a craft beer at Brewers' Row then walk over to Rocky Point Park for a concert, for example.
That ties into the bigger vision of how to redevelop the area around Moody Centre station and link it to the waterfront. "We have a blank slate there… and it's a great opportunity."
Still, the arrival of the Evergreen Extension also means the Tri-Cities are at risk of losing its base, Clay warned. Local residents will want to ride the rails to try out new restaurants and shop elsewhere.
"People will have other options to move about," he said.
SOME BIG TRI-CITY TOURISM DRAWS FOR 2017:
• Tri-Cities Pro-Am Cask Festival Competition (Executive Plaza Hotel, Coquitlam), Jan. 22
• Festival du Bois (Mackin Park, Coquitlam), March 3 to 5
• Coquitlam Craft Beer Festival (Westwood Plateau Golf and Country Club), March 9 and 10
• May Day parade (downtown Port Coquitlam), May 13
• Coquitlam Grande Parade (Pinetree Way), June 11
• BC Highland Games and Scottish Festival (Coquitlam Town Centre Park), June 17
• Golden Spike Days (Rocky Point Park, Port Moody), June 30 to July 3
• Canada Day (Coquitlam, PoCo, PoMo), July 1
• PoCo Grand Prix (downtown Port Coquitlam), July 14
• RibFest (Rocky Point Park, Port Moody), July 21 to 23
• Kick for a Cure (Coquitlam Town Centre Park), July 22
• Downtown Port Coquitlam Car Show, Aug. 20
• Terry Fox Run (Coquitlam, PoCo, PoMo) Sept. 17