With Yellowknife officially hosting the 2023 Canada Winter Games, hosting the 2018 Arctic Winter Games (AWG) has become a realistic option for other communities in the NWT.
Ian Legaree, director of Sport, Recreation and Youth for the department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), said he expects bid interest from the NWT’s largest communities with the “capacity to consider hosting.”
Those would include Fort Smith, Hay River and Inuvik.
The last time the South Slave hosted the AWG was back in 1978 when Hay River partnered with Pine Point to put on the games, then a considerably smaller affair.
Fort Smith and Hay River submitted a joint bid in the early 2000s to host the 2008 AWG, but were beat out by Yellowknife.
Janie Hobart, who was mayor of Fort Smith at the time and integral to the 2008 AWG bid, said with Yellowknife officially out of the picture, Fort Smith and Hay River could very well win the bid for the 2018 games.
“I think our chances are very good,” Hobart told The Journal. “The three communities, Fort Smith, Hay River and Inuvik, are the ones that have the bulk of the infrastructure now that would be required.”
Sport tourism is an undeniable economic generator for communities, Hobart said, and she’d like to see Fort Smith jump on the bandwagon.
“I know many communities, like Fort McMurray and Leduc, that are making it a major push,” she said. Fort McMurray hosted the Canadian Juniors last year and Leduc has hosted the Victory Triathlon and Canadian Fastpitch Championships.
“It brings in a lot of people, not just with the athletes and the coaches and the logistical people, but there are the spectators as well,” Hobart said.
The local business community would be given exposure and see heavy traffic during the games, and the town itself would benefit from legacy projects if new infrastructure is built for the games, she said.
Fort Smith currently has many of the facilities to host the AWG, but Hobart said she has already made contact with Hay River’s Greg Rowe, who was also involved in the 2008 attempt, to jump start talks about a partnership bid.
“I know he’s been in contact with his council and I sent a note to our council to see if we can explore that possibility,” she said. “It’s a great way for our communities in the South Slave to work together.”
At the end of the day, Hobart said the decision to make a formal bid will be made by council, who will take direction from the opinions of the community.
MACA has scheduled a bid preparation workshop for Dec. 4 to get a feel for the communities interested in making a bid for 2018 and to share information about what is required.
“We’ll be walking them through things like accommodations, the number of sport facilities, athlete feeding, medical services, the types of sports in the games, transportation and all the comfort and care types of things,” Legaree said.
Interested communities will then be asked to travel to Fairbanks, Alaska for the 2014 AWG, held Mar. 15-22, to observe the games.
The AWG international committee will launch the formal bid process later in 2014.