Lloydminster mayor Gerald Aalbers receives the Saskatchewan Games flag from Chantelle Patrick, chairperson of the Saskatchewan Games Board of Directors, while North Battleford 2018 Saskatchewan Winter Games co-chairs Rob Rongve and David Schell look on. SASKATCHEWAN WINTER GAMES FLICKR
The countdown to the Lloydminster 2020 Saskatchewan Summer Games has officially begun.
Lloydminster mayor Gerald Aalbers accepted the Saskatchewan Games flag near the end of the Winter Games closing ceremonies at the North Battleford Civic Centre on Saturday.
The passing of the flag signifies the end of the North Battleford community’s duties toward being hosts and ambassadors to the province’s best young athletes, while also heralding the Border City’s commitment to providing the next great venue for the Games.
The Games will bring approximately 2,000 young athletes, coaches and managers from across the province to Lloydminster in late July and August, 2020, for competition in 14 sports.
It is expected that close to 1,500 volunteers will be needed to help the community of Lloydminster host the Games, which will include the sports of archery, athletics, baseball, basketball, canoe-kayak, golf, rugby, soccer, softball, tennis, triathlon, swimming and volleyball.
Aalbers said council formally established a committee to start and continue the process of helping prepare Lloydminster to host the 2020 Games at a meeting this week.
He said members of that committee were in North Battleford during the Feb. 19 to 24 Winter Games looking to pick up a few new things from their organizing committee to add to the experience they gained when the Border City last hosted the Saskatchewan Summer Games in 2008.
“We’re very fortunate because we have volunteers, organizing people, who are stepping up again at this time and saying ‘yes we want to lead the charge,’” said Aalbers. “I know the city and the area will support us with volunteers as well as sponsors and donors to make the Games the best ever.”
Rob Rongve, a co-chair of the North Battleford 2018 Saskatchewan Winter Games, said two years of planning and a full community effort went into hosting the week-long multi-sport event.
He said their goal heading in was to show off their community in a positive light, while providing a huge boost economically to the Battlefords in the process.
Rongve noted 1,750 athletes accompanied by their many friends and family members from across the province descended on the Battlefords last week creating an estimated five to six million dollars in economic spin-offs for the community.
He added the hope is a lot of these athletes and fans will come back at some future time to take advantage of their sporting facilities again.
“It was actually a good experience,” said Noah Pigott, an 11-year-old table tennis player from Meadow Lake. “I got to see a lot of new things and I had lots of fun in the athletes village and playing table tennis.”
Pigott, who captured a silver medal in doubles and a bronze in singles, said his summer sport is tennis. He said the plan is to try out for Team Rivers West again in two years in order to compete at the Lloydminster 2020 Saskatchewan Summer Games.
“If you had a fun time at the Winter Games, well, obviously, the summer is hot,” he said. “It should be a lot of fun just like the Winter Games.”
Rongve said the Saskatchewan Games council provided a matching contribution of $250,000 to the North Battleford organizing committee for the formation of new sporting facilities, as well as upgrades to their existing venues.
He said they were able to develop a new speed skating track in North Battleford for the Games, allowing the sport a continued growth in the community, which will accompany the financial benefits in terms of a legacy.
The city takes the risk of hosting a Saskatchewan Games because if the event loses money then the taxpayer would be on the hook, noted Rongve.
So, their committee promised they would do their best to create a profit with the strong ticket sales and attendance at the venues leaving them confident they have.
“We’re pretty sure we’ll leave a financial legacy behind for the community,” he said. “We’ve already talked at the committee level as to what we’d like to do with that. We would like to invest that in more sport and possibly endow some funds to make a lasting legacy.”
Aalbers said the Saskatchewan Games bid evaluation and site selection committee deemed Lloydminster in great shape already to host the 2020 Summer Games, but there will still be work done to spruce up their facilities before that time, to ensure they have the best equipment and venues available for the athletes. He said that marks one of many good opportunities for a Games legacy in the Border City.
“We have an excellent set of venues in Lloyd,” said Aalbers. “But, can we improve them? We certainly can. I think the committee will bring forward recommendations to the city and we’ll look forward to seeing those recommendations as we move through the process.
“When the Games are over, it will depend on whether there is left over legacy money. Certainly, we hope there is legacy money left over that we’ll be able to put into some new venues or enhance the venues we have.”