The City of Toronto Bidding and Hosting Strategy for Significant Special Events was adopted by Toronto City Council on June 7, 2016. See full report and background information.
The City of Toronto Bidding and Hosting Strategy for Significant Special Events provides a framework for managing and evaluating Category A and B event opportunities in Toronto. Objectives for the Strategy include:
This Strategy is intended to apply to Category A and B special events, as defined in the City of Toronto Standard Definitions for Special Events. Other event categories, including Mega, C, D, and E, fall outside of the scope of this Strategy due to their size. However, the Strategic Hosting Principles outlined below can apply broadly to special events of all sizes, and may be considered as a tool for event organizers to consider as part of future growth strategies.
Taken together, the Strategic Hosting Principles form an evaluative framework, as summarized below.
Strategic Hosting Principles for Category A and B Events
Does the event have the necessary support from other government partners?
Does the event demonstrate the potential to secure support and commitments from the private sector, including corporate sponsors and/or philanthropic donors?
Does the event engage the local community in a meaningful way and respond to their interests and concerns?
In cases where an event is led by a third party organization, does the event organizer demonstrate sufficient capacity to successfully execute the proposed event?
Is there a high degree of confidence in the success of a bid?
Do the investments in both the bid and hosting concept have public value?
Will the event advance key City-building priorities and goals as articulated in City Council-endorsed strategies, including the City of Toronto Strategic Actions, 2013-2018; Creative Capital Gains, the City’s cultural plan; and Collaborating for Competitiveness, the City’s economic development plan?
Do the City and its partners have confidence that they can manage costs/resources and avoid or mitigate risks associated with hosting the event? Does the event have a guarantor?
Will the event generate broadly-shared benefits and will it leave a meaningful legacy for local communities after the event has ended?
Evaluating Event Bidding and Hosting Opportunities
To date, requests to support a Category A or B event bid or hosting opportunity have been managed on a case-by-case basis. This Strategy addresses this gap by proposing a new assessment framework for third party-initiated opportunities, which represent the majority of Category A and B events. An overview of the assessment and delivery framework for Category A and B events is illustrated below.
Assessment and Delivery Framework for Third-Party Initiated Events
Following receipt of a request from event proponent, staff will conduct an initial review to ensure eligibility as Category A or B event, and follow up with proponent for additional information as needed. Requests should be received a minimum of 8 weeks ahead of a review deadline.
A new Bidding and Hosting Advisory Panel, comprising of senior City management and up to two external members, will assesses the request using the Strategic Hosting Principles. The Panel will meet at regular intervals, with special sessions as needed for time-sensitive opportunities
Using the Panel’s expert advice, a final decision to allocate funding or institutional resources in support of an event is made by the General Manager, Economic Development and Culture. This decision is dependent on availability of funds and will require consultation with the Deputy City Manager and Chief Financial Officer as well as Council approval, if it exceeds divisional resources. If applicable, City and proponent enter into formal funding agreement.
A working group with representation from key City divisions is formed to coordinate the delivery of municipal services during the event. Working group collaborates with event organizer to streamline client service and resolve issues as they arise.
Following the event, the third party organizer will submit a final report and budget to the City, including performance metrics to measure impact of investment.
Identification, Assessment, and Development of City-Initiated Bids
A similar framework can also be applied to City-initiated bids, or event opportunities without a formal bid. While it has been rare in the recent past for the City to lead a bid for Category A or B events, the adoption of a proactive approach to event bidding is encouraged to attract and secure events that best support the City’s economic, social, cultural, and infrastructure development goals.
Examples of Category A and B Event Bids
Examples of Category A and B events for which the City could consider placing a bid in the future are listed below. This list is intended to be representative of the different types of touring events, and includes cultural events, sporting competitions, and gaming championships. Consideration would need to be given to the value of each event in relation to the Strategic Hosting Principles, as well as funding availability.
Strategic Growth Funding for Toronto-based Annual Events
In exceptional cases, the City may consider requests for support from existing Toronto-based Category B events that will deliver a significantly expanded edition of the event, with demonstrated potential to have impact on a global scale through increased tourism and attendance, international media exposure, and spin-off benefits for local business. An example of one such expansion is Pride Toronto’s hosting of the 2014 edition of WorldPride in Toronto.
These enhancements would generally be expected to result in the re-classification of the event as being in Category A. Such funding would be offered on a one-time basis only.
Category A and B events have the potential to deliver a strong return on investment for the City through direct economic impact, increased tourism, an enhanced global media profile, and social and cultural legacies. To assess the ongoing impact of Category A and B events, Economic Development and Culture will track the performance of City-supported events using a number of key performance indicators. For third-party events receiving financial support from the City, these metrics will be included as part of their final report.
Measurements of success will be developed to align with the Strategic Hosting Principles. Examples of such metrics include:
Generate Benefits and Legacies for Toronto
Projected visitor spending during event – Detailed breakdown of event attendance, with metrics such as the number of same day vs. overnight visitors, number of first-time visitors, geographic origin of visitors (e.g. number of visitors from outside Greater Toronto Area, outside of Canada, etc.)
In addition to tracking the success of individual City-supported events, it is recommended that the Strategy be evaluated as a whole once per Council term to identify areas of strength, and opportunities for improvement and growth. This evaluation will consider the cumulative impact of events support as part of this Strategy, and illustrate the legacy of the City’s investment.
The implementation of the Strategy, including identifying what events and how events are supported are in development. This includes a process for utilizing the Major Special Event Reserve Fund (M-SERF).
This Strategy adopts the Strategic Hosting Principles proposed by the Mayor’s Advisory Panel on International Hosting Opportunities as an evaluative framework for assessing the merits of a Category A or B event bidding or hosting opportunity for which the City is asked to provide some level of commitment– including financial contributions, institutional resources, or political support. From time to time, the City is also asked to underwrite or guarantee the financial performance of an event. It is recommended that the City not undertake any open-ended guarantee due to the associated financial risks.
While the Principles were designed to apply to “Mega Events”, they can broadly be related to special events of all types and sizes. When using the Principles as a lens through which to evaluate Category A and B opportunities, there are several additional criteria which should be given careful consideration. A detailed explanation of the Strategic Hosting Principles as they relate to Category A and B events is included below.
Consideration must be given to the degree of support afforded to an event from other orders of government. For Category A and B events, there is an expectation that event bidding and hosting costs are shared between the three levels of government.
Commitments from the private sector are essential to the success of a Category A or B event. For smaller events, private support can take many different forms – including cash sponsorship, in-kind contributions of materials and services, unpaid media coverage, and more. It is important to note that many Category A or B events are likely to approach the City for support prior to securing commitments from the private sector, with public sector funding being seen as the “seed” funding from which private support can be leveraged. In such cases, consideration should be given to an event’s potential to secure private sector support.
As with any major City-building project, it is important for a proponent to implement a thorough community outreach and engagement plan. The City should carefully consider how the event organizer plans to reach out to local communities, and make recommendations for how to enhance engagement strategies when applicable.
An additional consideration for Category A and B events is to consider the capacity of the proponent to deliver a successful event. Most Category A and B events are led by a third-party organization, and accordingly consideration should be given to the organization’s governance structure, financial position, and track record in producing successful events of commensurate size.
Not all Category A or B events involve a formal bidding process. If a bid process is involved, prior to confirming support for an event bid, it is essential that the City has a clear understanding of the bidding process and requirements, and have a high degree of confidence in the success of a bid before committing public funds. However, in many cases, a bid for a Category A or B event has already been secured by a third-party organizer before the City is approached for support. In such cases, or for events which have no formal bid, greater weight should be given to the other criteria in this section.
The City must place strong emphasis on the need for an event to create value for its constituents prior to committing financial or institutional resources. The City may consider a range of different factors when assessing public value – including, but not limited to, accessibility, relevance, spin-off benefits for local businesses and residents, the availability of free public events, potential for tourism, and more.
Council-endorsed strategic plans, including City Council’s Corporate Strategic Plan, Creative Capital Gains, the City’s cultural plan, and Collaborating for Competitiveness, the City’s economic development strategy, offer a broad framework through which to assess whether an event contributes to current City-building priorities. This assessment method should be updated in the future as Council adopts new strategic plans or actions to further Toronto’s growth.
The City and its partners must take steps to minimize financial exposure, and mitigate for other risks associated with the delivery of a Category A or B special event, including traffic disruptions, security issues, and the risk of negative public perception. In addition, some events may require a third-party guarantor to underwrite the cost of the event. In such cases, a guarantor should be confirmed prior to the City providing additional support to an event. It is recommended that the City not serve as a guarantor given the additional financial risks that this would entail.
Unlike Mega events, few Category A or B events will result in new physical infrastructure. When considering the legacy of a Category A or B event, consideration should be given more broadly to the social, cultural and economic impact of the event. For example, an event may offer volunteer and training opportunities for underserved communities; or, its legacy may be raising the public profile of an athletic discipline or art form in Toronto.