Some athletes travelling for the Arctic Winter Games trials not happy about accommodations
Sport North acknowledges initial messaging was not ideal, but says facilities are suitable
Some Arctic Winter Games trials start Thursday for the N.W.T., but some parents and athletes travelling to Yellowknife for the trials are less than enthusiastic about where they'll be staying.
Earlier this week, athletes got an email saying people competing in hockey would be staying at the "Hockey NWT offices/facility," which is the old Sears building on Old Airport Road. It was described as "a spot to lay your head," but because it's being shared with archery trials, it would not be available during the day.
Tiffany Demarcke lives in Hay River, and her daughter is travelling to Yellowknife to compete in hockey. She says she's relieved to know her daughter is staying with friends.
"If I was relying on the [trials organizers] for accommodations right now … I would be very very upset," she said.
Athletes are also being directed to use showers at the arena or fieldhouse. Demarcke was also concerned transportation is not provided to and from the facilities, saying it's too cold to walk and she would be worried about her daughter if she was in that situation.
"If I didn't have family to stay with, I would definitely be a lot more panicked. I feel terrible for those that don't have a place to stay," Demarcke said.
Because the Hockey NWT facility will also be used for archery trials, the facility will not be available for six to seven hours depending on the day. Athletes are also being encouraged not to be at the arena when their trials are not happening, essentially leaving athletes no place to go when not competing.
Demarcke said the athletes need a space to relax and take a break in between trials to regroup. She said she doesn't think the kids will have many choices but to hang around the arena when not competing.
She believes Sport North needs to consider holding trials in other communities as well to help alleviate the strain on Yellowknife.
Bill Othmer, the executive director of Sport North, said he can sympathize with the parents. He said they had valid concerns with the initial messaging that went out to the community.
But he said they're confident and comfortable with what is being provided, and that it's only impacting 30 athletes. The Hockey NWT office is in fact a 4,500-square-foot multisport facility that opened earlier this year. Othmer said even without showers, the building has suitable amenities, with 28 showers available at the rink.
"I ... toured the facility yesterday, I'll tell you it's nicer than even some of the Arctic Winter Games facilities, accommodation that we've had to stay in," he said.
He added they are now offering shuttles after hearing the concerns from the parents and will make it a priority to ensure athletes arrive to and from the facility. He said there's going to be some designated transportation as well as on-call transportation.
"[We're] just trying to ease any burden that parents … throughout the N.W.T. have," he said.
He said they usually try and keep athletes close to the place they are competing, but unfortunately couldn't accommodate that this year for hockey.
Othmer said they are encouraging athletes to watch the trials when not competing. He also said the athletes at all the other accommodations are in the same position, as they will also be required to leave the facilities during the day.
Athletes for all the other sports are staying at either Sir John Franklin High School, William McDonald Middle School or Range Lake. The Dene games athletes will be at the Dettah gym.
As far as spreading out the trials, he said Inuvik is hosting snowshoe racing and Arctic sports, and Hay River is hosting snowshoe biathlon and ski biathlon. He said in 2024, they will ensure that other communities host.
"That just builds your volunteers," Othmer said. "It just builds the whole momentum of the sport in the community once the territorial trials are finished."
- This story has been updated to provide more detail on the Hockey NWT facility in Yellowknife.Dec 09, 2022 9:11 AM CT