Calgary

Still hope for X Games, Tourism Calgary says after funding slashed

Tourism Calgary says it is still hopeful there is time to find funding for the X Games after provincial budget cuts endangered the city's commitment to host the winter festival.

Winter festival nearly cancelled after provincial budget cuts, now eyeing 2021 launch

'Going for 2020 was always a bit of a stretch goal, in order to have everything in place for that,' Mayor Naheed Nenshi said. 'Now that the province has pulled their funding for 2020, it'll be 2021 at the earliest.' (Union Illustration Co.)

Tourism Calgary says it is still hopeful there is time to find funding for the X Games after provincial budget cuts endangered the city's commitment to host the winter festival.

Calgary was the first Canadian city slated to host the X Games, and it was to be for a minimum of three years starting in 2020.

Funding for the festival was initially secured under the provincial NDP government, which had pledged $13.5 million to help develop the project.

The X Games were projected to bring $75 million to the city's economy — but it looked as though Calgary would not be able to afford the Games after the UCP withdrew the pledged government funding last week with the provincial budget cuts.

"While we support putting Calgary on the map as an international sport and tourist destination, our current fiscal situation does not allow for the funding of X Games," said Tanya Fir, minister of economic development, trade and tourism, in a statement to CBC News on Monday.

But in a Monday press release, Carson Ackroyd — the senior vice-president of sales with Tourism Calgary — suggested there's still hope for the X Games. He says the city plans to look for sponsorships and go back to the government with plans to host in 2021.

According to Ackroyd, it's a move that will give "all partners the time necessary to prepare to host and share our city."

"It also allows us to continue to work with key stakeholders, including the Government of Alberta, to ensure the economic benefits of this significant event are realized," Ackroyd said.

"This calibre of event reinforces Calgary's commitment to be a winter sport city, and to create opportunities for local youth to experience elite-level competition."

Mayor remains optimistic

In a scrum at City Hall on Monday afternoon, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the city's initial goal to host as early as next year was ambitious to begin with.

"Going for 2020 was always a bit of a stretch goal, in order to have everything in place for that," Nenshi said. "Now that the province has pulled their funding for 2020, it'll be 2021 at the earliest."

When the time comes for the city to renegotiate the X Games with the province, Nenshi said he is hopeful the Alberta government will recognize the games as an investment. 

"I think that tourism will put together a very solid business case. And listen, when you're thinking about a provincial government that is interested in diversification, that is interested in transforming the economy, [the X Games are] a really solid way to do that."

For its part, the UCP government says it is willing to revisit the X Games.

"We are willing to consider future requests," said Fir in her statement. "The previous government announced this funding less than a week before they announced the election writ, outside of their budget."

With files from Scott Dippel and Tiphanie Roquette

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