Thompson rescues 2018 Manitoba Winter Games as Games save Thompson
'It sends notice to Manitoba that we're still here and kicking'
The city of Thompson has stepped in to save the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games — or is the other way around?
The Games, which involve nearly 2,000 athletes and 1,000 volunteers, might just salvage an otherwise difficult year for the northern Manitoba city.
"The timing couldn't be better," said Mayor Dennis Fenske. "This is a huge event."
One of the city's largest employers, Vale Canada, has announced it will close its nickel smelting and refining operations in 2018. More than 500 workers will be impacted.
"We're all aware of the economic impact that may be imposed in regards to the closure," Fenske said.
The Winter Games will help raise spirits at a low time and also bring in valuable revenue, he said.
"Having 3,000 people in the city over eight days, it will have a positive economic impact to the community. And it's certainly a morale boost — it's always a positive experience for everyone involved.
"And the wider exposure is also a good thing. It sends notice to Manitoba that we're still here and kicking."
Fenske estimates the Games will bring "at least" $1 million into Thompson, which is about 650 kilometres north of Winnipeg.
"This is a positive story," he said.
The Games, which will take place in March 2018, include archery, badminton, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, gymnastics, hockey, ringette, speedskating, wrestling and table tennis.
They were first awarded to Virden but the town in southwestern Manitoba had to back out last month after it struggled to get volunteers.
This week, Thompson municipal groups voted unanimously to step in and take over.
Fenske doesn't believe finding enough volunteers will be an issue.
"It's starting already. I had a voice mail this morning from someone asking 'How do we sign up?'" he said.
"There's a lot of excitement around it."
Thompson also has a larger population pool to dip into for volunteers with more than 13,000 people compared to Virden's 3,100.
"And we have great support from the surrounding region, too," Fenske said.
Passing the torch
Thompson hosted the Games once before, in 1994, which helps when it comes to finding volunteers. Fenske hopes hosting again will allow the city to pass the organizing torch to a younger crew.
"Back in 1994, I was part of the young guns. Now it's time to develop and mentor future volunteers," he said.
As for starting the planning five months behind schedule (Virden was awarded the Games in July 2016), Fenske isn't worried about being ready to go when the Games begin.
Organizers will meet soon to put together a Games council and volunteer committee. And the city's past experience will be a great asset.
"We can do the catch-up," Fenske said. "We're confident."
With files from Nadia Kidwai