Red Deer’s 2019 Canada Winter Games were a game-changer.
Organizers say they established the city as a future national and international sports tourism destination, set a new gold standard for future games, and brought in more revenues than expected to central Alberta at a time when this area’s businesses could really use a boost.
An independent sport-tourism alliance found the games supported $110.3 million of economic activity in Alberta — including a $92.4-million injection in the Red Deer area and $19 million in visitor spending.
The games left a lasting legacy of infrastructure that will not only help local athletes train at a national level, but bring these national or international competitions to central Alberta, said board chair Lyn Radford.
The Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre at Red Deer College, a new Celebration Plaza for the downtown, a new speedskating track at Great Chief Park, improved cross-country skiing trails at River Bend Golf Course and ski runs at Canyon Ski Resort are tangible legacies of the games.
And Radford noted more than $500,000 in sports equipment and assets were later distributed to more than 40 local and provincial sports organizations.
The games also provided a life-shaping experience for participants, she added, noting 96 per cent of spectators and 95 per cent of athletes said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the experience.
As well, 93 per cent of Red Deerians surveyed said the games well represented their community and culture.
“You really hit it out of the park” on all fronts, said Catriona Le May Doan, the Olympic gold-medal-winning speedskater and member of the Canada Games Council.
Le May Doan listed the many “firsts” Monday that the Red Deer Games accomplished at a final press conference: This city had the first female chair of the host society (Lyn Radford), the first cross-country torch relay that covered 25,000 kilometres, and the highest amount of sponsorship revenue ever raised by a society hosting the Canada Games.
La May Doan added the Red Deer event also had the first inclusion policy covering all races and genders — including the first posted declaration that no one should be subjected to any harassment or abuse, which has since been adopted by Sports Calgary.
She noted Red Deer’s 2019 Games showcased the “formidable” wheelchair basketball games featuring disabled and able-bodied athletes playing together — “it was absolutely incredible.”
And the two-week event that attracted 3,00 participants and 26,000 visitors last Feb. 15 to March 2 was only possible because 4,600 local volunteers worked through frigid temperatures without complaint, added Le May Doan.
“It was chilly… but the volunteers warmed our hearts.”
Radford and 2019 Canada Winter Games president Scott Robinson praised all the people involved — the staff, volunteers and sponsors.
The 2023 Canada Winter Games will be held in P.E.I.
The 2019 Games by the mumbers: According to results from the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance:
* $68.3 million of initial expenditures were made
* $19.6 million of visitor spending was linked to the event
* 349 local jobs were supported by the games
* $110.3 million of overall economic activity in Alberta was generated
* 26,039 visitors came to Red Deer
* $30.3 million in wages and salaries were supported locally by the games
* $60.6 million was the total boost to the provincial GDP
* $16.3 million in taxes were supported across Canada