It was Red Deer’s time to shine.
And the community did not disappoint.
Thousands welcomed the committee tasked with choosing the host of the 2019 Canada Winter Games, and created one of the city’s greatest shows of civic pride in recent memory.
Chants of “Red Deer is Ready” echoed through the downtown streets letting the Canada Games Bid Evaluation Committee know that the city has what it takes to host the largest multi-sport event in Canada.
Red Deerians dressed in all shades of red to showcase their community spirit at the pep rally and festival while trying sports such as wheelchair basketball, boxing and judo.
An emotional Lyn Radford, chairperson of the Red Deer’s bid committee, thanked the community for believing in the dream that has been years in the making.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Radford. “You envision this but when that vision actually comes to fruition, you are amazed … Red Deer did us proud. It doesn’t matter what the outcome is. This community pulled something off that I don’t think any other community could do.”
Ron and Cari MacLean, honorary chairs, were equally impressed and moved with the show of community support in their hometown.
Cari said to see the “sea of red” at the rally was something else. She said it was a proud moment regardless of what happens.
“It is so Red Deer’s turn. It’s Red Deer time to shine and it is so apparent that Red Deer is ready,” said Cari.
Ron said they were extremely proud of Red Deer and the committee. Like others he was worried the weather would spoil the party — but it didn’t.
“Everything came off beautifully from the dancing and singing to the things that were said and the technical proposal from Red Deer’s bid committee,” said Maclean. “We are extremely grateful at the role we had played.”
Mayor Tara Veer said she was above and beyond proud of Red Deer. She said the citizens have stepped up in a new way.
We have matured as a city,” she said. “We’re Alberta’s emerging city. We are not just ready for the winter games, we are more than ready for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.”
Paul Flaherty, chairman of the 2019 Bid Evaluation Committee, said the Red Deer’s committee did a great job of organizing the community. He said the support the city has shown for the event was phenomenal.
“It was very well organized,” he said. “To see all the people congregate downtown and around town in different venues which was really rewarding.”
Flaherty said one of the biggest things the committee looks for is comfort and care of the athletes and the facilities. He said the games are a stepping stone for many athletes.
“The second thing we look for is the community,” he said. “Are they behind it? Do they support it? Clearly it takes a huge amount of volunteers. It takes about 5,000 volunteers to make all this happen. We are looking for community support.”
Those attending the festival and rally said that’s what makes Red Deer ready for the games – its community spirit and deep volunteer base.
Long-time resident Jeannette King said Red Deer has been ready for the games for more than 10 years. She said they had to turn away volunteers when the city hosted the Briar in 1994. King said the city was built on its volunteers.
“If anybody can do it, Red Deer can do it,” said Lynn Carter. “It’s always such a huge benefit to get national coverage and recognition. It goes on for years.”
The city has thrown its support behind the games approving $26 million (inflation applied) to improve and build a long-track speed skating and a short-track speed venue over several years. If Red Deer College does not proceed with its plans to build an Olympic-sized rink, the city will pay $11.4 million to build the ice surface and squash courts at the G.H. Dawe Community Centre.
The region could generate an estimated $132 million in economic impact.
The federal and provincial governments are expected to contribute at least $22.2 million in capital ($6 million) and operating ($16.2 million) combined for the two-week national competition.
The committee will now deliberate and make a recommendation to the Canada Games Council board of directors. Together they will make a final recommendation to the province. The successful host community – Red Deer or Lethbridge – will be announced on Sept. 4 in Calgary.