After the Show: what should the legacy of the Canada Winter Games be in YK?

On EDGE | Opinion

The City is inviting corporate and business volunteers to join the working committee on the 2023 Canada Winter Games – a body already loaded with politicians and bureaucrats eager to bring the event to Yellowknife.

The committee’s task is due diligence, mostly: to determine “the feasibility and advisability of hosting the games, and prepare a business plan to move forward with a bid submission;” to “review past games; identify strengths, areas of concerns and solutions; host community meetings to disseminate information and provide council with a synopsis of their findings.”

There’s an expectation that the addition of corporate/business types will force everyone on the committee to take a deep breath and a hard look at real costs and potential benefits from the games and their legacy projects. Wanted: some bottom-line thinkers to keep the dreamers from floating expensively away.

The fix is in

For a project estimated to cost as much as $50 million all told, the marching instructions are still vague and the track to the finish line is perilously short. But right now, it looks like the fix is in. Yellowknife will almost certainly host the games in 2023. But will it make the most of their potential legacy?


Estimated operational costs for the games are currently set at $26.8 million. Sport Canada and the GNWT have pledged $9.42 million each. That leaves Yellowknife with a tab of $7.9 million, but some councillors are worried about the inevitable cost overruns and how those will be covered.

The also-estimated $23 million cost of building athlete accommodations in the city takes us to that $50 million figure mentioned above. At this point, the housing cost number isn’t very firm, nor is the cash-strapped territorial government’s commitment to putting up all the money.

Hosting the games would also require the city to advance its plan to build a new swimming pool, and some observers wonder whether that cost should be borne entirely by Yellowknife taxpayers, or shared with the GNWT and Sport Canada.

More than one legacy

Housing is the game’s greatest potential legacy for Yellowknife, which is in desperate need of an alternative to the near-monopoly market created by the dominance of Northern Properties REIT. But it’s not the only one.

The games plan includes snowboard runs at Bristol Pit, and improvements to the the Ski Club trails. Both could make Yellowknife a credible training centre for winter sports. With a few tweaks, the ski trails could also open to runners and cyclists in summer, giving the city an even larger return on its games investment.

However, there is no sign yet that games planners are being asked to consider anything like year-round sports-recreation trails – or even more important, central questions for the games’ legacy: what form might the athletes’ village take and where will it be built?

Dust is gathering on the city’s $1 million blueprints for lower-cost eco-apartments in downtown Yellowknife. Those plans might be suitable for the athletes’ village, and, if that project was situated downtown, spur some desperately needed redevelopment.

After the games, the village could provide senior’s housing, or accommodate students for a stand-alone Aurora College that should be downtown – either in its own building, or in rented space. The games greatest legacy could be a downtown brought back to life.


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