A recent report suggests Yellowknife has the resources to host the Canada Winter Games in 2023, but how do city councillors feel?
After all, they’ll be the ones who decide whether or not to proceed with a bid.
Last week, a working committee established by city officials determined that the city can host such a large sporting event.
But the report also identified a number of concerns, including housing for athletes, hotel capacity and volunteer numbers.
Vocal opposition from the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce could also be “a serious impediment to success” if concerns among the city’s business community are not addressed.
The budget for the Games has been set at around $50 million, though this excludes eight-figure sums for an athletes’ village and upgraded swimming pool.
Read: Canada Winter Games Opponents Not Swayed By Report
Following two public meetings last week, most councillors have told Moose FM how they feel about the city hosting the Games, and whether or not they are in support of the idea.
“I just think it’s a big risk,” said councillor Linda Bussey. “I think we have so much more to deal with in this community.
“The economy is not what it used to be – it’s more fragile – so I think we need to look at sustainable projects.
“It’s about a want and a need and I think we don’t need [these Games].”
Bussey says that’s despite her being heavily involved in past Games hosted in other cities.
In e-mails last week, councillors Steve Payne and Julian Morse told Moose FM they’re awaiting more feedback before deciding.
“I’m still going over all the information provided plus I’m getting in contact with other cities to find out their experiences related to the Games,” Payne said.
Morse, who’s been out of town recently, told Moose FM he’s still undecided on a potential bid but that he hopes to get more information from the committee that provided the report.
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After attending last Thursday’s open house, councillor Shauna Morgan said while there are tangible benefits to hosting the Games, she’s more interested in the economics.
“The committee’s report lays out a strong case for how this event could significantly boost Yellowknife’s economy not just during the Games but for long afterwards,” she said.
“Mining is on the decline, tourism is on the rise, and these Games could be our chance to leverage significant federal, territorial and corporate funding to give our tourism sector a huge boost.”
Morgan says it’s unfortunate that some organizations entrenched themselves in a position against the Games even before last week’s report was made public.
She’s encouraging residents to read the report with an open mind to determine if risks outweigh benefits.
More important priorities than a ‘two-week party’
Councillor Rebecca Alty also touched on the topic of tourism. In a previous interview with Moose FM, she expressed concern over the time of year the Games would be held.
“That’s our busy tourist season so we’re going to be pushing out the Japanese and Chinese markets that support us all year round,” she said.
“Really, are the Canadian tourists or Canadian athletic tourism… is that going to increase our tourism outside of the one Games?”
Meanwhile, councillor Niels Konge questioned what sort of legacy the Games might have in Yellowknife. He previously told Moose FM ‘two weeks of glory’ shouldn’t come at the expense of other projects.
“You can walk down 50th Street or 51st Street and the sidewalks are in disrepair – so many roads and streets need repair.
“We have over 100 services to houses that are leaking, that need repair. There are a lot of other priorities, for me, that are more important than holding a two-week party.”
Councillor Adrian Bell says he’ll have more questions for the committee that prepared the report when a final version goes to the city’s municipal services committee in a couple weeks.
Councillor Rommel Silverio couldn’t be reached for comment.
Canada Games organizers are pressing for Yellowknife to give a definitive answer in the near future.
Editions of the Canada Games are awarded to each province and territory on a rotating basis. Should Yellowknife turn down this chance to act as host, officials say the city may have to wait until 2049 for its next opportunity.