A familiar name will adorn the Canada Winter Games Celebration Plaza.
On Wednesday, Lyn Radford, Games board chair, announced the plaza will be known as the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza after the Red Deer man and he made a major donation.
Radford did not disclose how much was donated.
“He called me and said ‘I want to do something for the Games,’” said Radford. “My stress level went down quite a bit. Our project will become enhanced because of this and it really helps us to have a decent revitalization of this area.”
Harris now has his name on two large parts of the Winter Games as he had already agreed to a sponsorship agreement with Red Deer College. The Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre will host short track speedskating, figure skating, squash, badminton and wheelchair basketball.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the people of Red Deer, so I wanted to be a part of it,” said Harris. “We’re going to have an onslaught of people.”
The announcement was made on the steps of the school, Central Intermediate School, that Harris attended in 1966 and 1967. He earned a scholarship and went on to become a lawyer.
“Gary has had a lot of success in this community and he wants to give back,” said Radford. “We started there and recognized that this was his home school, it led him on his academic path. He felt this was another area he really wanted to contribute to.”
Both of Harris’ donations have an overarching theme of both an impact for the games and a lasting legacy beyond February 2019.
“I’ve lived in Red Deer since 1966 and (downtown) needs some renovation,” said Harris. “This development will help the downtown core north of Ross Street to have a new life.
“I really think this plaza has to contribute to the community for a long period of time after the Canada Winter Games. It’s not just part of the Winter Games, it’s part of central Red Deer.”
Harris said he usually spends parts of his winter in Mexico, but 2019 will be different as he wants to help out at the Games, maybe even award some medals.
The Games will run Feb. 15 to March 3. Red Deer anticipates about 20,000 visitors and 3,600 participants will come to the city for the 19-sport event. The economic impact is estimated at $132 million.