The City of Campbell River will not submit a bid to host an upcoming 55+ BC Games after realizing the city doesn’t have enough facilities to go it alone and getting a lack of buy-in from the Comox Valley to submit a joint bid. Black Press File Photo

City of Campbell River won’t bid on 55+ BC Games after all

‘I hope that we can be better prepared for the next opportunity,’ says a disappointed Ron Kerr

After being excited about the possibility of submitting a bid to host the 55+ BC Games – going as far as setting staff to work figuring out the logistics of how to make it happen – the city has now decided to hold off for a while.

The 55+ BC Games – formerly the BC Senior Games – selects its hosts for three years at a time and, back in January, the city was invited to submit a bid for the games for the intake round for the years 2020-2022. Coun. Ron Kerr, in particular, was very excited at the prospect of bringing around 4,000 people to town and showcase the community through another sporting event. But when city staff came back with their recommendation, as requested, council regretfully agreed with staff that it is not really feasible at this time.

“Recreation staff have met with the BC Senior Games Society president, our economic development officer, consulted with the SRD and Comox Valley Communities, and researched facility availability to confirm the viability of the city submitting a bid,” the staff report says. “Research has indicated that Campbell River will be in a much better position to consider hosting the games in the intake round after 2020-2022.”

One of the reasons sited by staff in their report is that Strathcona Gardens – the only facility that would be able to host things like opening and closing ceremonies for an event of that size, as well as the swimming and hockey events – is about to undergo a major overhaul. The Nunn’s Creek Park upgrades are in the financial plan for between 2019 and 2021, which could make that facility unavailable, as well, when the time came to host the games.

Also, even should both those facilities be available, “the city does not have the requisite number of facilities to host 20 sports and would need to rely on the Comox Valley for approximately half of the facilities, depending on the sports chosen, effectively requiring a partnership bid.”

“I’ve always supported the seniors’ games and I think [hosting them] is a great opportunity, however we can’t do it ourselves,” Coun. Charlie Cornfield says. “I checked with a number of volunteers in the Comox Valley who were very active the last time we did this, and they had no appetite for it. We can’t do it without the valley and we certainly can’t do it without the volunteers.”

Mayor Andy Adams agreed.

Even though the games have reduced the number of events included so that communities of our size can realistically host the games, Adams says, it’s clearly not an option when both Strathcona Garens and the Sportsplex are set to undergo major renovations during the time period in question.

Kerr, although disappointed, said he understood the challenges and would like staff to start working now on what the city would need to do to be able to mount a successful bid during the next round of intakes.

“We all know the positive economic effects of sports tourism,” Kerr said, pointing to a study commissioned by the Senior Games themselves that found the games contributed over $3 million to the host community in 2014.

Kerr says as an active participant in these games, he can use himself as an example of the economic impact of the athletes, saying that this year he is driving all the way to the Kootenays where Kimberley and Cranbrook are co-hosting the games from Sept. 11 to 15.

“Something that got left out of the report is that the host community would also receive part of the registration and sports fees to balance the cost of hosting, along with $85,00o from the Ministry of Arts and Culture,” which Kerr says more than compensates for the $60,000 in cash and $55,000 of in-kind financial obligation the host city is required to contribute in order to host the games.

“I hope that we can be better prepared for the next opportunity.”