Canmore to have a major role in a successful 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

Russ Ullyot – Bow Valley Crag and Canyon – September 15, 2018 – Canmore is certainly not an outlier when it comes to a vision of the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Calgary’s 2026 Olympic Bid Corporation outlined its vision for Games to Calgary council on Tuesday, Sept. 11 and it includes the Canmore Nordic Centre and Nakiska Ski Area as venues in a proposed $5.23 billion budget. Canmore council will receive the document at its Tuesday, Sept. 18 regular meeting.

Following its acceptance of the Draft Host Planning Concept document, Calgary council voted 12–3 to accept a  plebiscite date of Nov. 13 on whether Calgarians want to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Canmore council are planning to vote on the town’s participation on Nov. 6.

Should Calgary become the host site, the 2026 Olympic Winter Games will run Feb. 5-22, and Paralympic Winter Games, March 6-15. Calgary, Canmore, Kananaskis Country and Whistler, B.C. are identified as additional host sites.

The document noted Canmore is “recognized as one of the world’s best winter sport hosting locations” with Canmore Nordic Centre home to biathlon and cross-country skiing and a new athlete’s village constructed in Canmore. The Nordic centre has a capacity of 5,000 spectators.

“The benefit of the Calgary–Canmore bid is that most of the venues are in place and only require renewal as opposed to rebuild or brand new venues,” said Lisa de Soto, Town of Canmore chief administration officer and the town-appointed Calgary 2012 Olympic Bid Corporation representative.

In its presentation to Calgary city council, the Calgary 2026 Bid Corporation outlined a number of Canmore issues. Chief among those that will affect Canmore is a proposed athlete’s village.

A non-market housing development with a capacity for 1,250 (the report also stated 1,200) athletes is part of the document. Funds in aiding development of the land would come from a $583 million legacy fund for Olympic housing.

“There would be a portion of the $583 million that would be a Games’ contribution to the affordable housing legacy in Canmore,” said de Soto, adding  that partnering with the Calgary Host Corporation means being able to build the housing “at a lower cost to the CCHC then if we had to build them on our own.”

The already identified lands — two large parcels owned by the CCHC and Town of Canmore — for the project are located on the north side of Palliser Trail to the west of the current affordable housing developments.

“We would be partnering with CCHC to deliver that housing project,” said de Soto. “They could put it out to the private sector to deliver the project. There are a number of different ways it could be delivered but the intention is that it is not the host corporation that delivers it. It would be the town in partnership with CCHS that delivers it.”

The housing project, which would be constructed over 2024-2025 just in time for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, would be part of the lasting legacy and serve as perpetually affordable housing following the completion of the Winter Games. It would add approximately 218 perpetually affordable homes, with a further 24 units dedicated to athlete and coach use following the Games. The document also stated that the development could be expanded post-Games to add additional housing units, which de Soto said is a possibility.

“The intent, similar to Hawks’ Bend [another CCHC project] that CCHC needs to borrow, or the municipality needs to borrow funds, for the project is that the units are sold as equity units, or there is a revenue stream that the debt servicing costs are supported by rental revenue,” said de Soto. “CCHS will decide if they are equity or rental closer to the Games.”

The Town of Canmore would play a large part in making the Winter Games a success  beyond just coordinating venue and village development. Under the roles and responsibilities matrix, the town is being asked to take the lead in municipal coordination, Games-time protocol and visitations, delivering cultural programs, communications and media relations, special events, bylaw enforcement, permits and licenses, zoning, garbage and recycling, street maintenance and snow clearing within Canmore.

Many of these noted aspects come with financial implications.

“Those are all part of our negotiations on revenue sharing with the province,” said de Soto. “There are options for funding as the planning progresses, however as for the delivery of service perspective, this is where Whistler [2010 Vancouver Olympics] was successful in negotiating with the B.C. government on their resort-municipality status. So, one of the opportunities we have is to advance the conversations, we have been engaging the province on for over a decade now, on revenue tools to help tourist-based communities like ourselves, Banff and Jasper.”

Also, the Town of Canmore is currently working on, as the document states, to “provide a framework for evaluation of the legacy and hosting investments and hosting opportunities and to assist the government partners with decision making and their development of a Multi-Part Agreement (which outlines, responsibilities and cost sharing of the partners) in respect to the Games.”

“We have been working on that for quite some time, starting in the summer,” said de Soto. “It starts with cost apportionment and then looks at infrastructure and services to be delivered as part of the Games during the Games.

“We are at the negotiating table with government partners, specifically our negotiations are bilateral with the governments, and they are not concluded yet but progressing in a positive fashion. We hope to have them concluded and clearly articulated to Canmore community and council before council is required to make a formal decision.”

As for the Canmore Nordic Centre, a legacy project from the 1988 Winter Olympics and home to the national teams for both biathlon and cross-country skiing, the document says that capital improvements would be coming in the form of “base area development, utility upgrades and facilities relocation, transit site preparation” as well as “course improvements including snowmaking.”

The Calgary Olympic Bid Corporation, in its document, is also asking the Town of Canmore to “Dream Big” when it comes to economic opportunity and cultural enrichment, with the report stating “creativity, innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit are vital … .”

“Much of that Games’ time planning will not happen for several years yet,” said de Soto. “The cultural Olympiad can impress and ‘wow’ the world, and that is the reference to ‘Dreaming Big’ as a host community. That is where will be positioning ourselves,” said de Soto.

Among the items listed on return on investment through shared objectives, the Draft Hosting Plan Concept stated it should “enhance, recognize and solidify Calgary, Canmore and the Bow Valley’s sport hosting brand.”

In the opportunity, impacts and legacies portion of the document, it listed post-1988 Olympic benefits for Canmore as gaining the Nordic centre, as well as building a swimming pool, and curling rink and golf facilities — which were initially part of an athlete’s village in Canmore.

The Olympic Village in Canmore for those Winter Olympic Games consisted of ATCO trailers located on what are now Canmore Collegiate High School grounds. The current clubhouses for the curling rink and golf course were constructed as part of those amenities, as well as the former swimming pool, now the gymnastics gymnasium, within the Canmore Recreation Centre.

Another project will be turning Nakiska into a polished alpine ski area. Located in Kananaskis Country and owned by the Province of Alberta while managed by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies, the ski area would again host alpine events.

The ski area was purpose built for the 1988 Winter Olympics and is regularly used by numerous national alpine teams for early season ski training. It has hosted numerous World Cup events in several alpine disciplines.

Nakiska will see significant capital improvements including facility and utility upgrades to prepare for hosting downhill, giant slalom, super-G, slalom, combined, parallel giant slalom, ski cross, and snowboard cross races.

Pomeroy Lodge would serve as the athlete’s village, with its 700 available beds augmented by 300 temporary beds during the Winter Games.

The whittling down of potential host communities will take place Oct. 8-9 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with Calgary up against Stockholm, Sweden, Sapporo, Japan, Erzurum, Turkey and a three-city Italian bid.

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