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Bear Mountain Readies its Real Estate for World

Posted on September 13, 2016

Dan Matthews is about to have millions of people peering into his back yard, and he could not be happier about it or have timed it better.

The chief executive of Ecoasis, owner of the Bear Mountain development, has invited the world to check out his resort, its golf course and the potential for the community when the 2016 Pacific Links Bear Mountain Championship, a PGA Tour Champions event, tees off next week.

The event, which will include several big-name players — including Vijay Singh, Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer — will bring together one of the strongest senior golf fields seen this year and with it a large television audience via the Golf Channel, which is available to about 110 million households.

The event, which starts Sept. 19, comes at an ideal moment for Ecoasis, which is about to launch a significant real- estate offering, though Matthews is adamant he can’t take any credit for the timing. “It just so happens it coincides with our real-estate launch, [which] was planned long before the PGA event,” he said.

But he’s certainly not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Matthews said with millions of people watching in 84 countries, to say nothing of those travelling to watch the event itself, it’s a chance for people to experience Bear Mountain, its setting and Greater Victoria.

“What it will do for us is it will enable people who don’t know Bear Mountain, or who only know it and its historically rocky path, to see it now,” Matthews said. That means a solid financial footing and obvious investment in the facilities, amenities and new real-estate developments. “If you hadn’t heard of Bear Mountain before you will in a couple of weeks.”

Ecoasis bought the project at a discount from HSBC Bank Canada in 2013, after the bank stepped in to take control from the previous owners.

In the 30 months since then, Ecoasis has invested to complete several projects, poured money into the two 18-hole golf courses, and established Bear Mountain as the home of Team Canada’s men’s and women’s development golf teams, the high-performance training centre of the Canadian National Mountain Bike Team and invested in a tennis facility that will serve both the community and Tennis Canada.

It has also put together, through consultation with its 3,500 residents, a master plan for the next stages of development that will see Bear Mountain grow to a community with as many as 10,000 residents in the next 10 to 15 years. That includes the revamped Highlander development, now called Elevate, a 200-unit condominium project, and a 100-lot development called Cypress.

“We will launch between $100 million to $120 million in real estate between now and Christmas,” said Matthews.

Elevate is in pre-construction mode, with expectations that building will start in the first quarter of next year, while Cypress will start coming out of the ground in October.

The impact of the golf event is expected to be felt well beyond the resort community atop Skirt Mountain. “This means a lot for the region as a whole,” said Matthews. “Without Victoria’s profile as a destination we wouldn’t have had that success.”

Matthews has been told the full impact of an event such as the PGA event ranges between $18 million and $30 million.

David Skitt, Pacific Links’ tournament director who has been in Victoria since May getting the lay of the land and prepping the site, said the ripple effect of the tournament is already being felt as he has used 20 local equipment suppliers and arranged countless excursions for players and guests when they are here.

“There’s a lot of impact, player outings, restaurants, rental cars and hotels,” he said.

As for the effect of the TV coverage, he said the back-nine of the golf course, and in particular the vistas from Hole 14 will sell the city to the world.

“We were out with the Golf Channel spending about 10 minutes on each hole [getting camera angles], but we spent ages on Hole 14 getting all the right angles,” he said.

The tournament operates with a budget of about $7 million, including prize money, according to Skitt and will be run by a large paid staff and more than 650 volunteers. “The volunteer response was spectacular,” he said, adding the potential to grow this event is incredible. “This is such a great place, I certainly hope [we can build on it].”

So does Paul Nursey, chief executive of Tourism Victoria.

Nursey said the TV coverage is the most exciting feature from a marketing perspective, and they will wait to see if it translates into visitors later this year or next. Tourism Victoria, a sponsor of the event, is not advertising on the Golf Channel, but Destination B.C., the provincial marketing organization, is airing TV spots during the coverage.

Nursey said Tourism Victoria has provided video and has been coordinating excursions for players, sponsors, VIPs and guests.

Story: Andrew Duffy