Red Deer could emerge as one of the premier sports destinations in Alberta with a little help from the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
On Monday, city council threw its support behind the bid for the games while approving $26 million (inflation applied) to improve and build two new facilities over several years.
Councillors reasoned that the provincial and federal funding attached to the games would allow projects to go ahead that have been years in the waiting.
The two senior governments are expected to contribute at least $22.2 million, in the form of capital funding ($6 million) and operating ($16.2 million) combined, for the two-week national sporting competition. Red Deer and Lethbridge are the only two communities in the running.
Games bid committee chairperson Lyn Radford said there will be legacy pieces left in the community that will allow the community to enjoy the day after the games.
“We are going to increase our assets almost $100 million in this city just for the games,” said Radford. “That’s a vision but you have a lot of people behind that vision. This is what you are leaving for the next generations . . . . To me, it’s quite a no brainer.”
To host the sporting events, the committee has proposed upgrades to existing facilities and new facilities, to meet the technical requirements for the games.
The specific upgrades have not been disclosed because of the competitive nature of the bid.
The two big ticket items are the construction of a long-track speed skating venue at Great Chief Park and a short-track speed skating venue at Red Deer College. They come with a $19.7-million price tag.
Roughly $3.5 million will be spent to upgrade the River Bend Golf and Recreation Area and Canyon Ski Hill, a legacy piece including a downtown Games Plaza and various sports equipment.
Another $75,000 has been allocated for the Collicutt Centre, Red Deer Arena and the Kinsmen Arenas.
If Red Deer College does not proceed with its plans to build an Olympic-sized arena, the city will pay $11.4 million to build the arena and squash courts at the G.H. Dawe Community Centre.
The synchronized swimming events would be hosted at the Talismen Centre in Calgary and the alpine events would be held at the Nakiska Ski Area in the Kananaskis region. Badminton competition would be held at the Abbey Centre in Blackfalds.
Radford wanted to stress that a proposed pool in Red Deer is not part of the bid package.
Council also gave the green light on the committee’s $34.7-million proposed operating budget. The host society will be responsible for the operating budget through government grants, sponsorship, fundraising and ticketing.
The city would contribute $2 million in value-in-kind over the four years of the operating budget. This may include venue usage, staff, legal services, information technology, transit and security services. The society would be formed after the games are awarded in September.
Radford said she is feeling fairly confident that Red Deer will snag the games even though Lethbridge, the other city in the running, has kept its cards close to the chest.
“We have to do our own game plan,” said Radford. “It’s no different than a hockey game or a soccer game. You have your game plan and you really have to make sure you stick to your game plan. I think that breeds success.”
The final bid is due at the end of the month.
The committee is gearing up for a big bash and rally to welcome the Canada Games bid evaluation committee to Red Deer on Aug. 22. Details will be released by Monday. In the meantime, Radford asks residents to “like” Red Deer is Ready — 2019 Canada Winter Games on Facebook.