LETHBRIDGE – Cheered on by a gallery of supporters wearing jerseys and t-shirts of local sports groups, Lethbridge city council unanimously approved to move ahead with supporting the city’s bid for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
“I’m really proud of city council, it was unanimous,” said mayor Chris Spearman. “I think that’s going to be the feeling of our community, this is an investment in our community and an investment in our youth.”
City council agreed to underwrite the $26 million dollar cost of the games, while hearing from the bid committee that most of those costs will be recouped from sponsorships and ticket and merchandise sales. If awarded to Lethbridge, the games are expected to bring in more than five thousand out-of-town visitors and provide a $198 million dollar boost to the southwestern Alberta economy.
Council spent close to an hour debating the fiscal merits of undertaking an event of this magnitude, but in the end agreed the rewards far outweigh the financial risks.
“We’ve got to have confidence in ourselves,” said Spearman. “And we know that we can make this work. We have the people, we have the resources and I’m confident we’re going to pull off an exciting 2019 Canada Winter Games.”
The games would be a collaborative effort with events held throughout Lethbridge, as well as at Castle Mountain, Pincher Creek and the Crowsnest Pass. Current venues would be used and updated where necessary, while a new twin ice arena featuring one sheet of international sized ice would be built on the Lethbridge College campus. Lethbridge is among the final two cities bidding for the games, along with Red Deer, and council’s support was necessary for the bid process to go ahead.
“This is monumental, we’ve spent the last nine months preparing for today,” said bid committee chair Stephen Neis. “This is it, this is the launch now for us.”
The next step is one final visit from the Canada Games selection committee, August 21st where they’ll tour potential event sites and meet with the bid committee. The winning bid is expected to be announced in September.