A nice little ‘bullpen’ session in the office a couple of Fridays ago brought up the long-time debate over the positives and negatives surrounding the closeness of the City of Saskatoon to the Town of Outlook.
Everyone who lives around here is fully aware of the close proximity between each community, but for those reading this column who perhaps are not familiar, a little refresher course: from Outlook, Saskatoon is about a 45-minute drive after you zip up Highway 15 out of town and hang a left onto Highway 219.
Forty-five minutes seems to be the agreed upon time, but in truth, the length it takes to reach the city is likely to be even more reduced in the future, particularly with the growth of the Stonebridge neighborhood, as well as new developments such as the Crossmount area south of the city.
The longstanding question is whether Saskatoon’s closeness is a good or bad thing, and it ultimately comes down to personal choices; do you shop local and stick to what you have in your home area, or do you cruise up to the city to take advantage of what all the big box stores can offer?
It’s one of those never-ending debates, and it’s difficult to actually determine what the “right” answer is because everyone’s needs are different. The one consistent statement I hear from people on the topic is along the lines of, “If I happen to be in the city for something, then I might stop at this, this and this store before I come home.”
Hey, fair enough, I get it. I’m the same way. If I’m in Saskatoon for a Rush game for example, or maybe I’m meeting friends for drinks, then maybe I’ll think, “Hey, maybe I should make a pitstop at Walmart on the way out.” It’s just one of those situations – if you’re there, you take advantage of the opportunity.
I should also take this opportunity to point out how hilarious I find it when I go to the Walmart in the Stonebridge area, because I always, ALWAYS end up running into someone from Outlook or the surrounding area. It’s like a weird “city meetup point” for us rural folks.
My own position on the city’s proximity has always been a simple one: The benefits of Outlook's closeness to Saskatoon all depend on what side of the cash register you're standing on.
If you’re a customer, then it’s free reign for you and all about your personal preferences.
But if you’re a business owner, then it’s all about crossing those fingers in the hopes that local residents darken your doorstep and give you their business.
Take the Reel Theatre in Outlook, for example. In fact, it was at the epicenter of the talk I had with my coworkers the other week. Outlook’s movie theatre finds itself bouncing back and forth between solid attendance numbers and low turnouts. This is in part due to the movies that are playing, which may be interesting to some but not to others, but it’s also due to the fact that we’re basically an hour’s drive away from four movie theatres in the city that each have multiple screens.
In speaking with Reel Theatre operator Nadine Ivanco, it became crystal clear that the success of the business really depends on the people coming out to the movies. It’s simple supply and demand, really; the more people that go to the movies in Outlook means that they report higher numbers in their nightly box office reports, and in turn, the theatre would have a much better chance at screening new movies much quicker.
Long story short – if you support something local, you see the benefit much quicker than you would in a big box store in the city. That, and you’re helping out the people you see every day, some of them friends and neighbors, or even family.
If we want to take things one step further though, then I think Outlook should stop promoting its closeness to Saskatoon. It’s included on the main page of the town’s official website, “less than an hour south of Saskatoon.” Listen, I get it, people have a need to know what the nearest city is, but is it really OUR job in small towns to promote that fact? Aren’t we more concerned with putting families into new homes, and filling vacant buildings with new businesses, and then getting people to support those businesses?
I’m not saying “Shun the city” or anything like that, but I just think people need to remember that while we keep telling others how Saskatoon is less than an hour away, essentially giving city businesses free promotion, you can be assured that those businesses are NOT promoting Outlook. It’s a one-way street.
Which is a crying shame, since we all know that this town and surrounding area has so much to offer people.
For this week, that’s been the Ruttle Report.