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Lac La Biche County could put in bid for 2026 Alberta Summer Games

Hosting the 2024 Alberta Summer Games to showcase the community is a nice idea for Lac La Biche County ... but much of the showcase items won't be ready by then, say municipal officials. A bid to host the 2026 Games is the goal.

LAC LA BICHE - Hosting the 2024  Alberta Summer Games to showcase the community is a nice idea for Lac La Biche County, but much of the showcase items won't be ready by then, say municipal officials. So, Lac La Biche County councillors and planners are setting their sights on the Games in 2026 when a new Aquatic Centre and a new downtown streetscape will be fresh and new. 

“We’re not ready for 2024,” said Coun. Jason Stedman, highlighting several large-scale projects currently on the go, near completion and in the planning stages. "We've got a lot on our plate at this point in time." 

The decision to pass on bidding for the 2024 provincial sporting event came after a substantial study made by municipal planning and recreation staff.  

“I just want to put the bug in everyone's ear that I personally feel that 2026 would be the year for us. Our facilities will be built… they’ll be in pristine shape, they’ll be new, shiny and a great time to showcase our community," he said.  

Working with neighbouring municipalities  

Considering that multiple communities bid to host the Games, Staci Lattimer, the county’s Manager of Recreation says in order to be a successful host municipalities have to provide not only the various sporting games, but wrap-around services.

Included in the requirements are accommodation for the visitors, adequate food services for a minimum of 1,200 people in an area, sufficient funds to host the event, commitment from at least 1,500 volunteers and much more. 

Regional option 

A potential opportunity to facilitate the requirements would be to work with regional communities such as those in the Bonnyville, St. Paul and Cold Lake areas. At this point, however, during the initial information gathering, said Lattimer, the neighbouring municipalities weren’t interested in a partnership for the 2024 timeframe... but potentially in the future. 

"There was an appetite for us to kind of grow our partnerships and work together on these types of bids going forward for 2026 and 2028,” she said. 

Although there is interest in Lac La Biche County council to look into some regional partnerships for the 2026 event, creating an event exclusively within the municipality would benefit businesses, support all the county dollars utilized for infrastructure projects and remove excess commutes for visitors and residents who attend the games, said councillor and Deputy Mayor Lorin Tkachuk. 

“If that means we need to re-look at what venues we have or add to that gamut of venues or even potentially in some situations make temporary venues for certain events, I would really like to show-off what we’ve built here,” he said, adding that the economic impact of visiting athletes, support personnel, families and spectators would be a massive opportunity for local business. “We want to see that revenue come into the community not only from a county perspective but to help our local businesses. The more traffic we can put through those facilities, the more paycheques people are getting in our communities.” 

Successful community partnerships 

In previous years, the county has submitted bids for the 2016 and 2022 Alberta Summer Games, to no avail. Municipal officials had to pull their last bid off the table when it became clear that the infrastructure wouldn’t accommodate all the sporting events.

To help better coordinate local, regional, provincial and bigger sporting events in the community, the Sport Tourism Working Group was established last February to work with stakeholders, business owners, local sporting groups to build relationships, support the community and jointly host large scale events like the games, said Lattimer. 

Through that group, community surveys and meetings they hope to create plans to host successful regional events, leading up to larger events like the Summer Games. It’s disappointing to have to turn from the 2024 Games, said Lattimer, but it’s realistic.  

“My recommendation is to continue to reach out and work with our neighbours, work with our partners, work with our community groups to start hosting those things. Build up our resume, build up our portfolio and then go after these bigger things,” she said. 

Next steps 

Part of that learning curve will see a contingent of municipal council and staff heading to Okotoks next summer to see  how that community handles the 2023 version of the sporting spectacle. Moving forward, County administration and council hope to create a concrete plan for the timeline of county infrastructure projects prior to submitting a bid for the 2026 Games when they become available to municipalities in 2024, said Tkachuk. 

“I would really like to target the 2026 Alberta Summer Games and understand that it gives us at least four years leeway. We don’t need to rush and try to scramble the building capacity right away, but at least it gives us four years to settle, to plan and to be able to host,” he said.  

According to information from the Alberta Summer Games provincial website, the Games can provide and economic impact of approximately $3 million to a host community. There is a provincial grant of $420,000 available to host communities. 

The Alberta Summer and Winter Games are held every two years. The next Alberta Summer Games will take place in the Okotoks and Black Diamond region from July 20-23, 2023.  The 2020 Summer Games were supposed to be held in Lethbridge, but were postponed for one year due to COVID restrictions.  The 2021 re-scheduled event was later cancelled due to the pandemic.