If Yellowknife agrees to host the 2026 Arctic Winter Games (AWG), Mayor Rebecca Alty says it would need a lot of help from the territorial government.
In a city meeting last week, Alty said she plans to bring forward a motion for the city support the territory’s bid to host the games, but only in an advisory capacity.
“I just don’t think we’ve got the capacity to lead this project or financially contribute over $5 million,” she said at the March 27 governance and priorities meeting.
The 2026 games had first been slated to be held in Russia, but the Arctic Winter Games international committee has suspended Russia’s hosting due to its war with Ukraine.
The N.W.T. had originally been scheduled to host the games in 2028, but the committee wrote to Shane Thompson, minister of municipal and community affairs, to ask if the territory would move up in the hosting rotation and take over the 2026 slot.
Gary Schauerte, the department’s director of sport, recreation and youth, brought that proposal to a Yellowknife council meeting in January. At that time, city administration said it would do an analysis of how it would impact other city projects if the city chose to divert resources to hosting.
Though city staff were expected to have that analysis report ready sometime in the spring, Alty said last week that her motion would be in lieu of that report.
She is suggesting the city support the N.W.T.’s bid to host the games in a couple ways: the city could assign some of its staff to sit on the host committee as advisers, for instance, and write a letter of support saying Yellowknife would donate the use of facilities to the games.
“That’s still a significant contribution from the city,” she said.
During his presentation to council in January, Schauerte said support from the federal and territorial governments would be available for the city — but Alty said last week that wouldn’t be enough.
“To fundraise $5 million from our local community would be tough, and trying to put $5 million on taxpayers, also,” Alty said.
“Beyond the cost, it’s the staff resources that are required. Again, our next couple of years are intensive from a workload perspective, and with a limited budget we can’t really add more staff just to focus on the games.”
Even in an advisory capacity, city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett said having the games in Yellowknife would require city resources.
“Other projects may fall by the wayside,” she said. “Things like the Niven Lake Trail, which we’ve had to press pause on for a couple of years now, may get pushed further into the 2020s.”
Hosting creates return on investment, games committee says
John Rodda, president of the Arctic Winter Games international committee, said if Yellowknife declines to host, the international committee will have to think fast.
“Normally, planning for the games takes about three years,” he told CBC News.
“We’re hoping it’s a positive response [from the City of Yellowknife]. If it’s not, then we as a committee are going to have to say, ‘OK — what are our options?'”
Rodda urged the city to consider the tourism dollars that will come out of its investment and the social impacts of creating pride in the community.
Alty said she will bring forward her motion for a vote at the city’s next meeting on April 11.
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