The two-year countdown to the 2019 Canada Winter Games is on.
The winter games will run from Feb. 15 to March 3, 2019, in Red Deer, bringing 3,600 athletes to the city to compete in 19 sports, along with about 25,000 visitors.
Scott Robinson, 2019 Games CEO, said the pace has picked up and work has begun on lots of different components required to bring the games to life since Red Deer was first chosen to host the Games in 2014.
“It’s like a mushroom cloud. It starts out boom — with a bang. There’s a bit of a quiet period, than it starts to expand tremendously, quickly, in terms of the amount of the people who come on board and the things that have to be delivered,” Robinson said.
He said excitement is building as organizers move into the next phase and planning starts to be integrated into the community and visible.
“When we came out of the business plan process we were more internal, trying to identify the things that we need to do from the big picture point of view. Now we’re getting into the more detailed sort of outreach planning in the community,” said Robinson who attended a meeting on Tuesday with City of Red Deer staff to discuss what organizers and the city need to work on together for the Games.
He said in the next six months or so organizers will meet with cultural and community groups in the city and region.
“We’ll be working with other groups in the community to try and identify things groups can do on their on in relation to the Games and making it a fun place for our spectators and visitors from out of town to experience Red Deer.”
At Canada Games Celebration Plaza, to be developed near the historic Central Elementary School, there will be daily activities and nightly entertainment during the Games.
He said the construction and redevelopment of sports venues in the city are on track including the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre at Red Deer College, the speed skating oval at Great Chief Park, upgrades to cross-country ski trails and biathlon venue at River Bend Recreation Area, upgrades at Canyon Ski Hill, and construction of the new downtown arena.
“As far as I know everything is good. Most of the venues should be ready by the fall of 2018 for test events and things that are coming to Red Deer for us to try some of the new venues out with the different sports involved.”
Robinson said organizers have about 30 per cent of the $13 million they need to raise towards the $32.5-million operational budget.
He said ticket sales and merchandising will come later. A major focus now is sponsorship.
“The Games is a unique opportunity. Even though the economy has certainly been challenging, there’s lots of areas where we’re doing quite well and we’re focusing on those. There’s lots of interest from the community and the province.”