The 2027 Canada Winter Games will be held somewhere other than Whitehorse.
That’s because the Government of Yukon decided to pull the plug on hosting the big show after not getting enough of a funding commitment from the federal government.
The decision was announced on Nov. 14 by Richard Mostyn, the territory’s Community Services minister. In making the announcement, Mostyn blamed Ottawa for not committing enough cash to help build what the territorial government claimed was necessary to make it work.
The bid contained two big-ticket items: a new 3,000-seat arena at a cost of $115 million and an athletes’ village to be built at Yukon University for $60 million. My guess is that it would be turned into a residence afterward, but it appears that won’t be happening. There was another $10 million needed for various other infrastructure costs.
In total, the Yukon government was looking for the feds to pony up a sizable chunk — I’m thinking at least half — of the estimated $185 million price tag to get it done. According to what Mostyn said on Monday, only $16.75 million was committed, including $3 million for capital costs. He didn’t seem too thrilled about it.
Currie Dixon, leader of the Yukon Party, called it a “slap in the face,” and noted that the federal government’s offer was less than half than what was offered for the 2007 Games, which were also held in Whitehorse, the first ones hosted North of 60.
So, with that decision, what does that mean for the potential bid coming from the GNWT in 2035? I know it’s a long way off, but so is 2027.
The Canada Games Council introduced a new hosting rotation earlier this year, where future Games sites will be awarded in four-event blocks over an eight-year period: two Canada Summer Games and two Canada Winter Games. The GNWT has already indicated that it will be spearheading any 2035 bid that comes — which must be made by 2027 — and you know they will be going to the feds to look for some cash.
The press release from Shane Thompson, Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), even stated as much:
“Should a formal bid for the 2035 Canada Winter Games be submitted, the GNWT will pursue every available option to secure funding and support from the Government of Canada,” the release reads.
I’m sure every option will be pursued to secure funding from the Government of Canada, but seeing what’s happened with Whitehorse will probably get some heads scratching at MACA. The Sport, Recreation and Youth Division falls under MACA’s purview and that’s where the decisions will most likely be made on how to approach getting that money.
One thing we know we need is an athletes’ village, or somewhere for the athletes, coaches and team staff to lay their heads. You can’t do what happens at the Arctic Winter Games and just shove a couple thousand bodies into school classrooms, gymnasium floors or churches and have them in sleeping bags. So that’s a big-ticket item and a crucial one.
The city is getting the aquatic centre built, so that should be ready in time for synchronized swimming (yes, it is a winter sport, according to the Canada Games Council). The Yellowknife Ski Club will need quite a facelift, both the Yk Community Arena and Multiplex will likely need some retrofitting, or at least a fresh coat of paint. The gymnasiums around the city will probably need some tender loving care. And that’s just a start.
I’m thinking the reason the feds decided not to cut the Yukon government a huge cheque comes down to asking for it all at once. That’s understandable. When a group asks for a large sum of money now to build something down the road, that’s fraught with disaster. Remember, prices will go up. What costs $185 million won’t cost $185 million in 2027. Or 2026.
The City of Whitehorse may have had to come up with some capital coin, the Yukon government would have had to bump up its contribution, or the cap would have been put in front of the federal government for a top-up.
If the GNWT is smart, it will provide the federal government a multi-year plan of what it wants to do. I mentioned this before — trying to do everything in one shot only equals failure. Something will get missed or screwed up or done incorrectly. Who looks like the fool after that? Fix or build what needs to be built now and that will save a lot of grief down the road.
Besides, we all want this to happen in 2035 in Yellowknife, right?