Sarah Cockerill of Red Deer asks Jerry Hedlund

Canada Winter Games bid committee hosts open house to boost support for event

For those working hard on Red Deer’s bid package for the 2019 Canada Winter Games, it’s not a question of if but when.

For those working hard on Red Deer’s bid package for the 2019 Canada Winter Games, it’s not a question of if but when.

They hoped to bolster that positive vibe on Tuesday evening at the Collicutt Centre during a community open house where Red Deerians could ask questions about the games, find out more information and show their support.

Red Deer and Lethbridge are the only two cities in the running to host the games in five years. Final bid proposals are due by the end of June, and the games council will visit the city sometime in August. The winning community will be announced in September.

The open house is a way to raise awareness with the public and to make sure “no stone is left unturned” when it comes to concerns, said Lyn Radford, the city’s games bid committee chairperson.

She said once an exact tour date is set by the council, she hopes the public show their enthusiasm by organizing things like block parties and showing up at a festival that is being proposed at a centralized area, communicating that “Red Deer is ready.”

“It’s important they see the community is engaged because they want a community that has a total buy in for this,” Radford said. “A healthy engaged community is a vibrant community . . . It’s kind of like a coming of age party for Red Deer.”

Lori Rechlo of Red Deer stopped at the tables to chat with committee members and peruse design billboards as she dropped her daughter off at gymnastics practice.

“I’m a sports freak,” she said, filling out a form to volunteer at the games. “I wanted to figure out how I can be involved. Any sporting event, I support 100 per cent . . . I think it’s the perfect city to have it in and it’s about time it comes here, for sure.”

A number of enhancements will have to be done at facilities across the city, including a few new builds such as a long track speed skating rink at Great Chief Athletic Park and a short track speed skating rink at the proposed Red Deer College Multi-plex.

Canyon Ski Hill does not have the mandatory vertical height to host the Super G alpine event so the committee will propose hosting this event at Nakiska, a ski resort in Kananaski. Additionally, badminton would take place at the Abbey Centre in Blackfalds as it meets the ceiling requirements. Synchronized swimming would be hosted at the Talisman Centre in Calgary.

The committee’s budget is estimated at $280,000, Radford said, noting she has every intention of sticking to that figure.

Mayor Tara Veer was also on hand to speak with the public and said they do receive questions on occasion about the financial implications of hosting the games.

“Ultimately the city has a recreational capital plan and securing the games would actually serve as a catalyst to that because it would enable Red Deer to secure provincial and federal capital dollars that would otherwise not be available to us,” Veer said. She added an estimated $132 million in economic impact is expected from the games.

The committee also plans to develop volunteer and leadership programs for the games that will last long after the thousands of athletes go home.

“That’s what these games are about; leaving a legacy,” Radford said.

The committee hopes to have the first draft of the bid for phase two done by May 15.

Another open house is scheduled for tonight at the G.H. Dawe Community Centre from 6 until 8 p.m.

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