While the bid process for Hay River and Fort Smith to host the 2018 Arctic Winter Games continues, not all clubs are entirely on board.
“People are asking us what we think of hosting the games,” said Hay River Ski Club committee member Chuck Lirette. “But at this point, we don’t really know what we’re being asked about.”
All the local clubs involved in the bid were asked to come up with a budget for their sports – in this case biathlon and snowshoe shared between Fort Smith and Hay River. The club came up with 37 items that ranged from food and snacks to a PA system and paint.
Pat Babinski, chairperson for biathlon on the bid committee and long-time coach and sport-organizer said the ski club could expect to see at least 200 people a day during the proposed events in 2018, and would require a minimum of 60 or 70 dedicated volunteers.
“I’ve been to every Arctic Winter Games – either as a coach, athlete, or official – except two,” he said. “I’m just not sure it’s realistic to think that the South Slave could host the games the way they’ve grown.”
Ski club organizers agreed that among the largest concerns related to hosting the games were the massive number of people the region would have to accommodate, as well as the sheer number of volunteers needed. Everyone present had at least two games under their belts – some many more – and said that the number of people associated with the event is between 5,000 and 6,000.
Furthermore, Lirette noted that much of the volunteer-base may be keen to take their holidays during spring break, which is generally scheduled to coincide with the games.
“Before I say, yes, I’m onside, I’d like to know what that means for the schools and for this community as a whole,” he said.
Chair of the bid committee Greg Rowe said that while he hopes the clubs involved can be positive in their outlook, the whole point of the process currently underway is to see if the games can reasonably be hosted in the South Slave in the first place.
“If the sport chairs have got concerns, bring them forth and we’ll address them as best we can,” he told The Hub. “When this is all put together, we’ll know if we can do it.”
Rowe said that when all the sports chairs get their budgets worked out, if the entire bid comes in too high, it wouldn’t even be brought to the two town’s respective councils.
“It has to be realistic,” he said. “We’re not proposing that we have millions of dollars. If it comes in at $10 million, we know we can’t do it and we don’t want to burden the tax-payers.”
On average, the most recent games have run about $6 million. The GNWT has already committed $3.5 million and the federal government another $1 million. Rowe said that the remaining money isn’t far off from what they had to raise the last time the South Slave bid on the games, and that with in-kind donations that total can come together pretty fast.
“There’s other ways to do things,” said Rowe of the potential costs and requirements associated with the games. “(There are ) other options we can explore to get this event off the ground and make it the best it can be.”