Chatham-Kent, with two lakes and two rivers within its borders, is the result of the amalgamation of the City of Chatham and Kent County communities in 1998. While a mostly rural municipality, Chatham-Kent is no slouch when it comes to live theatre, museums and art galleries, good restaurants and great shopping, all of which can be found in the former City of Chatham, shown here, where more than half the municipality's 110,000 residents live. (Photo courtesy Sean Marshall)

Chatham-Kent sitting pretty on new $2-million 'Boardwalk'
— Monopoly coup vaults Ontario waterfront city into spotlight

Born in the depths of the Great Depression, the board game of Monopoly has featured The Boardwalk as its coveted top real estate acquisition for its entire history. Now, an all-Canadian version will replace that top spot with the Ontario waterfront community of Chatham-Kent.  

The game’s manufacturers held an online vote earlier this year to select 22 Canadian cities that would replace the traditional places such as Marvin Gardens and Vermont Avenue with Canadian cities. And when the more than one million votes were counted up, Chatham-Kent had captured the largest number to earn the top spot in the board game’s new edition.  

Chatham-Kent took 6.7 per cent of all votes, squeezing out the Quebec community of Saint-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, which gains the consolation prize of sitting on the spot previously held by Park Place.  

Overall, seven of Ontario’s waterfront communities were chosen to fill the 22 geographic locations around the board. The others are: Sarnia, Windsor, Kawartha Lakes, North Bay, Toronto and Ottawa.  

The citizens of Chatham-Kent cheered from one end of the sprawling amalgamated municipality to the other across 2,458 square kilometres on June 22 as the official announcement was made in a broadcast in council chambers, carried live on cable TV.  

For Chatham-Kent, winning the top prize means many things.  

“For one, it means unification,” Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope told “It’s about the identity of 23 communities who united to vote as one for Chatham-Kent. It creates a story about Chatham-Kent. It’s that identity, that common ground that we were looking for after amalgamation.”  

In terms of economic development, the mayor said the media exposure — news of Chatham-Kent’s Monopoly coup has been spread from coast-to-coast — will do wonders to raise the municipality’s profile and finally put it on the map.  

“People know where London is. They know where Windsor is, but until now, they didn’t know where Chatham-Kent in the middle was,” Hope said. “This will open doors to economic development not only in Chatham, but in smaller communities around us.”  

Networking created one giant voting machine

That Chatham-Kent, with a population of about 110,000, managed to create such a dedicated fan base that large cities such as Toronto were widely outvoted in the Monopoly polling is not lost on the mayor, who gives full credit to the community.  

“If it wasn’t for the networking in this community, this never could have happened,” Hope said. “It was incredible how everyone came together. My hat goes off to them.”  

The new game hits store shelves on June 28, just in time for Canada Day, and will retail for $39.99. It will be available in Canada only, says Marisa Pedatella, spokeswoman for Hasbro Toys, Monopoly’s manufacturer.  

In Monopoly’s 75-year history, an estimated one billion people have played the board game. In its traditional U.S. version, properties are named for locations around Atlantic City, New Jersey.  

In the new Canadian version, prices have been updated — you’ll earn $2 million for passing GO instead of the original $200 — and so have tokens and events. For example, one of the new tokens is a cellphone, while the activities you’ll be able to take part in by picking up the right card will include skating down the Rideau Canal and heading off to a casino at Niagara Falls.  

The relative value of the properties is represented by different colours on the game board. For instance, after the dark blue Boardwalk and Park Place, the next most valuable properties are represented by the colour green, and Sarnia captured one of the three green spots. Edmonton and Calgary were the others.  

Moving down the list in terms of value, you then head to yellow, where Windsor came in as one of the three cities chosen, joining Quebec City and Trois-Rivières.  

No Ontario waterfront communities made it to the red list, taken by Medicine Hat, Alta., and the Quebec communities of Gatineau and Shawinigan, but under orange, you’ll find Kawartha Lakes, joined by Chilliwack, B.C., and Montreal.  

Under magenta is North Bay, along with Kelowna, B.C., and St. John’s, while under the light blue properties, you’ll find Toronto and Ottawa, joined by Vancouver.  

Two wild card communities were chosen — Banff and Beauceville, Que. — to round off the lowest-valued properties with the colour brown.  

“We are thrilled to celebrate Canada Day with this new all-Canadian edition of the world’s favourite family game brand featuring cities voted by Canadians!” Michelle Sinclair, brand manager of games and puzzles for toy and game-maker Hasbro Canada, said in a news release. “We hope that Canadian Monopoly fans will enjoy playing on a game board that includes an interesting mix of our cities featuring all of the dynamic cultures, sights and history of this country.” — June 2010