Skip to content

Study to determine how much AWG boosts economy

Any group of people – large or small – dropping into the South Slave can only be good for the economy, and when about 2,000 people converge for the Arctic Winter Games, the benefits are magnified.

Hay River craftsperson Antoinette Aylward, left, discusses her work with Stacey Monaco of Palmer, AK, during the Arctic Winter Games Cultural Marketplace at Chief Sunrise Education Centre on the Hay River Reserve.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

By just how much is the focus of a study underway on the economic impact of the Games from March 18 to March 24.

The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) has hired a consultant to study the Games as they are happening.

Ian Legaree, director of sport, recreation and youth with MACA, said such economic impact studies have been done since the 1990s on most games in various jurisdictions.

"We're interested in what the economic impact of the Games is on the community that's hosting or the region that's hosting," he said. "So we engaged a professional firm to conduct the study and tell us what that was."

MACA has hired the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance.

"They're recognized experts in the field," said Legaree. "They've done Canada Games, Arctic Winter Games and other sports tourism events for many years now."

A representative of the alliance is in the South Slave to survey residents and visitors on how much they're spending on hotels, rental cars, gasoline, restaurants and other items.

Two local groups are helping do the surveys. In Hay River, it is the fundraising committee for the graduating class of Diamond Jenness Secondary School. In Fort Smith, it is the business class at Aurora College.

Legaree noted the study also looks at investments in capital projects that are built largely because of the Games.

That would include something like Fort Smith's new snowboarding park, which can also be used by a community for years afterwards.

Legaree said a study helps all levels of government determine the impact of their investments in such sports events and projects, and helps plan for the future. A public report will probably be finished by the end of summer, he said, after the financial reports are wrapped up by the Arctic Winter Games.

Previous studies have shown the games elsewhere to be worth the investment.

"I'm not aware of a big, major, multi-sport games that hasn't made a significant economic impact," said Legaree.

Hay River Mayor Brad Mapes said there is definitely a positive economic impact from the AWG, although he is thinking mostly in the long term.

"When you're looking at economic development growth, you look at the fact that there are a lot of people that have come to the Arctic Winter Games," he said. "A lot of them would probably never come to Hay River. Now they're here and we can showcase what we have, and look forward to seeing them come back in the future."

Mapes noted he plans to return to Nuuk, Greenland, after first visiting there for the Arctic Winter Games.

The AWG also helps build capacity, he added.

"It shows what our community can actually do."

In Fort Smith, Denise Yuhas, president of the Thebacha Chamber of Commerce, has seen more economic activity from an influx of people for the Games.

"People seem to be really busy and there are lots of people moving around, and probably bringing a good chunk of cash with them, and lots of shopping bags going down the street," she said. "So that's all a good thing."

Georgina Fabian, a craftsperson on the Hay River Reserve, said the Arctic Winter Games Cultural Marketplace has helped her sales.

However, it is enjoyable to just meet visitors and talk about the crafts, she said. "And I tell them stories behind it."