Yellowknife feasible host for 2023 Canada Winter Games, says committee

An 18-member subcommittee met Tuesday morning to discuss Yellowknife's potential bid for the 2023 Canada Winter Games, and while a decision hasn't been made on whether the city will bid, the committee is optimistic that the N.W.T. capital could serve as host.

Committee met Tuesday to discuss issues related to Games, including housing and legacy projects

Team Northwest Territories arrives for the closing ceremony at the 2015 Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C. It still hasn't been decided if Yellowknife will bid on the 2023 Games, but a committee thinks it could be done. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

An 18-member committee met to discuss the possibility of hosting the 2023 Canada Winter Games in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories on Tuesday.

The City must make a commitment to host by the end of 2015, and research is being done to determine a budget and assess the risks involved.

Kevin Hodgins, who was part of the risk assessment subcommittee for the Games, addressed many risks, including the potential lack of volunteerism and corporate sponsorship.

The subcommittee also looked at the feasibility of the project, and even factored in the weather as a potential risk.

But none of the above issues are the primary obstacle, according to Hodgins.

"The [primary concern] would be housing," he said. "How we're going to provide housing to accommodate the athletes during the games themselves."

The committee is considering holding the Games later than usual, in order to coincide with school's spring break in March. This provides a few options for the committee to house athletes and volunteers. It was suggested that "snowbirds" who leave Yellowknife during the break could volunteer their home to house some of the volunteers.

The option the committee seems to be leaning toward, however, is the idea of building an athlete's village. The intention of the project would be to house athletes for the duration of the competition, and then repurpose the village into affordable living after — similar to what Whitehorse did when hosting the Canada Games in 2007.

The sponsorship economy

A second major concern addressed at the meeting was sponsorship. There are companies, such as TSN/RDS, and Xerox, who are corporate sponsors of the Canada Games, which take place once every two years. Committee members were concerned that, depending on the economy, corporate sponsors wouldn't be able to put up the amount of money they had for past iterations of the Games.

However, it was noted that although it can be difficult to predict, sponsors are required to sign multi-game deals, meaning companies sign contracts for two or three sets of Games, and will be required to bring similar amounts of money forward for each iteration.

The committee also addressed a potential Games legacy project during the meeting. A custom for any city that hosts the Canada Winter Games is to build such a project — whether it's a venue used during the event or otherwise — to commemorate the Games after they've left.

Ideas brought to council included an improvement to the city's trail systems, as well as a legacy building that will host the opening and closing ceremonies, and will hold a library and chambers as well.

"I was thinking about the legacy of 5,000 Canada Winter Games volunteer jackets we'll see floating around town for the next 30 years," Mayor Mark Heyck joked during the meeting.

The committee plans to decide on three ideas and open the choice up to the people of Yellowknife to vote on.

Optimism remains

Despite all of the potential issues that the city may face, the committee remains optimistic Yellowknife would make a great host for the 2023 Canada Winter Games.

"I'd say tentatively, yes, [we can host]," Hodgins said, though the committee did make clear during the meeting that a decision on whether or not to bid had not yet been reached.

The next committee meeting is slated for Aug. 20.


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