Let’s Talk: 2019 Canada Winter Games: Our moment is finally here

The focus of my column over the past year has been Red Deer’s crime and social challenges, as this is the No. 1 area of concern council continues to hear about from our community.

I will return to this focus in forthcoming articles, but for this month, I thought I would discuss the upcoming Canada Winter Games as, after years of planning, our moment is finally here.

Feb. 15, Red Deer will welcome 20,000 of our fellow Canadians to the largest event to be hosted in our local history. Over the past five years of preparations, citizens have often asked council why the Games have been such a priority for our community.

While it is true the Games are important in and of themselves in terms of supporting Canadian youth in their sport development, it is equally important to remember although the Games will come and go, the Games infrastructure and community legacies will remain with us.

The Canada Winter Games are arguably the single-most largest infrastructure catalyst in Red Deer’s history, attracting federal and provincial infrastructure dollars to Red Deer that otherwise would have been invested in another Alberta community.

These infrastructure dollars have helped sustain our local economy throughout the worst of the recession, attracting new investment to Red Deer at a time when we have needed it the most.

As a direct and indirect result of the Canada Winter Games, the following has been achieved above and beyond the community pride, volunteerism, national identity and profile that has been generated:

* Partnership with the Canada Winter Games and Red Deer Public Schools to build the downtown Celebration Plaza (which ultimately saved a heritage building for our future culture centre);

* Speedskating ice and Setters Place at Great Chief Park;

* River Bend modernizations and upgrades;

* Canyon Ski Resort modernizations and upgrades;

* Partnership with Red Deer College and the Canada Winter Games Host Society for the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre;

* Provincial approval for the QE2 South interchange, expansion of the runway at the Red Deer Airport and University status for Red Deer College.

It is also important to note other community successes that have been achieved since Red Deer was named the host city for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

Red Deer has attracted the following events, all of which have, and will, provide much-needed financial stimulus into our local economy: 2016 Memorial Cup, Canadian Finals Rodeo for 10 years, Hlinka Gretzky Memorial Cup for 2018, 2020 and 2022, Sherwin Williams CHL/NHL 2019 Top Prospects Game, World Juniors 2021, Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association Men’s Volleyball 2019 Championships, North American 2018 Cup in Biathlon and Nordic Skiing, WHL Awards and Bantam Draft.

We all have much to be proud of for the city we are, and the city we are becoming.

Our facilities are ready, our volunteers and staff are ready, and our community is ready.

Above all, we will do our city, our province and our country proud. The Games are a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our community, so may we continue to work hard in the coming weeks and bring our absolute best in all things.

May we also occasionally pause, enjoy the Games, and be reminded that we are all a part of Canadian history in the making.

I hope this helps to answer some of your questions until next month. As always, council thanks you for the ongoing opportunity to represent you. We look forward to seeing you all in the near future and hearing about what is important to citizens in our community.

Until next time…

Mayor Tara Veer

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