Closing ceremonies from the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse, which marked the first time the Games were held in the North. Whitehorse and the Yukon government are considering a bid to host the Games once again in 2027. (Submitted/Sport Yukon)

Closing ceremonies from the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse, which marked the first time the Games were held in the North. Whitehorse and the Yukon government are considering a bid to host the Games once again in 2027. (Submitted/Sport Yukon)

Whitehorse council contemplates 2027 Canada Winter Games

City and territory would co-host national event

The Canada Winter Games may be headed north once again.

Two decades after becoming the first community North of 60 to host the Canada Winter Games, Whitehorse could play host, along with the Yukon government, to the 2027 Games.

At Whitehorse city council’s June 6 meeting, members were presented with a recommendation the city “formally declare” its intention to bid for the national event in 2027.

“It’s still a long ways off,” Coun. Samson Hartland commented, noting that while there are many stages to go through, he is excited to see this coming forward.

The Games

The Canada Games are held every two years (with the exception of the 2021 Games, which have been moved to 2022 due to COVID), alternating between summer and winter and drawing athletes from each jurisdiction across the country in a variety of sports.

The 2027 Games are expected to see more than 2,000 athletes competing in more than 20 sports.

There’s also a cultural component to the Games, which celebrates the country’s arts and culture, Jeff O’Farrell, the city’s director of community services, stated in a report to council.

The territory is on the hosting cycle for the Games in 2027. In January, the Yukon government sent a letter to the Canada Games Council to state it would support a non-competitive bid process to co-host the 2027 Games with the City of Whitehorse.

To begin that process, the city must declare its intention by June 30.

A bid committee must also be established and the co-hosts are required to pay a $60,000 bidding fee, O’Farrell noted.

The impact of the 2007 Canada Winter Games

He went on to highlight the 2007 Games as “an extremely successful event that had a lasting impact in Whitehorse’s sporting infrastructure, economy and sense of community.”

The event brought more than 7,500 visitors to the territory with visitor spending estimated at $8.7 million.

The total economic impact was estimated at $94.8 million with capital spending at $69.1 million.

That included the building of the Canada Games Centre off Hamilton Boulevard and the athletes’ village, which now serves as seniors housing and a student residence at Yukon University off of Range Road, among improvements made to other facilities.

“According to an economic assessment by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance, the Games contributed an estimated $75.2 million to Yukon’s gross domestic product, and generated $176.7 million in economic activity.”

Looking ahead

O’Farrell also highlighted the benefits that would come in hosting a future Games.

“Hosting the Canada Games would provide a rare opportunity for Yukon athletes to compete at a national level on their home territory and be cheered by their own community and families while participating in Canada’s largest multi-sport event,” he said. “It would be an incredible chance for local sports organizations to forge long-lasting relationships with partners across the country.”

O’Farrell’s report went on to note the event would also provide an opportunity to showcase “Canada’s True North cultural, heritage and community spirit to the rest of the country” with Yukon performing and visual artists, musicians, writers and more having a chance to perform for athletes, coaches, officials, guests and spectators from across the country.

“Reconciliation, sustainability and promoting our territory’s art, culture and youth will be at the forefront of these Games,” he said.

Next steps

If the proposal moves forward, the official bid launch would happen in the fall. The technical bid is due in January 2022, and the full bid is due in July 2022.

Whitehorse city council would be required to approve the bid package before it is submitted. The bid package would detail how various aspects of the Games will be dealt with including athlete accommodations, transportation, venues, revenue generation, volunteer recruitment, as well as capital and operating funding.

A review of Whitehorse’s bid would happen in October 2022. It would be granted that November.

“Bidding for the Canada Games is a significant undertaking,” O’Farrell said. “It will require countless hours of volunteer and staff time from individuals with a variety of backgrounds from sport to marketing, from revenue generation to general accounting, from arts to infrastructure, and everything in between.”

If successful, there would also be a $1.08 million hosting fee and a commitment of at least $3 million in capital expenses from the co-hosts.

“Cost sharing arrangements between YG and the city regarding the hosting fee have not yet been negotiated,” O’Farrell said, going on to point out the territory has taken steps to be responsible for any deficit incurred with the Games, as it did for the 2007 Games.

In stating his excitement about the Games, Hartland also stressed the importance of ensuring the finances for the event are clearly outlined and addressed.

Council will vote June 14 on whether to formally declare its intention to co-host the Games.

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