LETHBRIDGE- Lethbridge residents banded together on Thursday, to welcome the committee of the Canada Games Council in their bid for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
The committee was toured through a variety of venues across the city, and people greeted them at every corner to show the support and excitement Lethbridge would bring if the games were awarded to them.
The day started with a vibrant fireworks display and ice show at the ENMAX Centre to showcase the arena that will be utilized if the Games were awarded to the southern Alberta city that last hosted them in 1975.
Lethbridge has hosted a number of regional, national and international events, including the 1975 Canada Winter Games, the 1981 and 2012 Alberta Summer Games, the 1996 Alberta Winter Games, the 2001 Alberta Seniors Games, the 1987 and 2007 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, and the 2012 Ford Women’s World Curling Championships.
The city is also hosting the 2015 Alberta 55-Plus Winter Games, and currently bidding to host the 2015 Skate Canada International competition.
“There is approximately $1 billion in public and private sector investment planned in Lethbridge over the next four years,” said Mayor Chris Spearman. “Included in that is the full Leisure Centre project that city council approved earlier this month which totals $150 million, combined with the Crossings Ice Complex already under construction.”
A free pancake breakfast was also held as part of the ‘Whoop-Up Days’ festivities happening in the city. The coach of the ’75 winning hockey team was one of the special guests on hand to help sell the Games to the committee.
“It’s hard to explain, unless you’re really involved in it. But to be asked by the committee to carry the Alberta Flag in Lethbridge in front of a crowd like this was a real honour,” said Howie Yanosik.
The audience cheered as video tributes from other athletes from the past were shown on the big screen at ENMAX and flag bearers stood with pride as they represented each province.
The tour had six scheduled stops that promised to showcase the venues, ambiance and energy Lethbridge and its residents would offer if selected. After their stop at the ENMAX Centre, the committee also visited Lethbridge College, which would be the temporary home for the athletes, along with Exhibition Park and the Rocky Mountain Turf Club, the proposed long-track speed skating facility and target shooting site for the Games.
Next up was Galt Gardens, and the park located in the heart of downtown was re-named “Fan Central” for the day.
A free BBQ and concert was put on and all residents were asked to come out and wear their favourite sports jerseys to show the support and excitement they would bring if awarded the 2019 bid.
“It’s impressive, and the volunteers deserve an awful lot of credit for all the work they’ve done in rallying the people, but again it shows the community’s support for an event like this,” said Paul Flaherty, 2019 Canada Games Bid Evaluation Committee Chair. “It’s really encouraging to see and that’s what the Canada Games are all about.”
Despite the rain hundreds attended the rally and the committee was given a surprise performance by a flash mob.
The final stop of their tour finished at the University of Lethbridge, where they viewed the gym, Max Bell Aquatic Centre and finally Markin Hall where a technical presentation was held. The committee now heads to Red Deer to evaluate their facilities.
“We’re more then ready to host the Canada Winter Games and we’ll show Canada what a great place it is to be in southern Alberta,” said Spearman. “We have outstanding accommodations, thanks to Lethbridge College and the community of Pincher Creek. We have outstanding venues and facilities in Lethbridge and our regional communities. We have thriving arts and cultural communities who will enhance the richness of the Winter Games experience for all athletes.”
The two finalists will find out the winning city on September 4.