A pair of international winter sporting events will likely be returning to the city, thanks to financial support from the City of Prince George.
On June 14, city council approved funding for the city to host the 2022 Women's World Curling Championships and the 2024 Para Biathlon World Championships and World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals.
City council approved a $250,000 request from the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club to support their bid to host the para biathlon and para Nordic events. Council also approved $200,000 to cover in-kind costs for hosting the curling championships.
Prince George was scheduled to host the 2020 Women's World Curling Championship in March 2020, but the event was cancelled at the last minute at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This was the first major event cancelled because of the pandemic," Coun. Frank Everitt said. "We are not spending new money today, we are spending money that was dedicated in 2020."
In 2020, the city provided $300,000 to Curling Canada as the host city for the games and that is being carried forward to the 2022 event, according to a staff report which went before council. The hosting agreement between the city and Curling Canada remains the same as in 2020.
Curling Canada is asking the city to cover between $150,000 and $200,000 in in-kind costs for hosting the games at CN Centre. The city has $200,000 from 2020 earmarked in the Major Events Reserve to cover those costs, the report said.
"It will be a really great way to begin with an event that we were supposed to host in 2020," Coun. Cori Ramsay said.
Coun. Kyle Sampson said the ticket sales and other support the curling event had in 2020 is likely to carry forward to 2022.
"We saw proof of concept of this event's success," Sampson said. "I think we are going to see huge economic benefits."
'THE CUPBOARDS ARE BARE'
While council was unanimous in its support to host the 2022 Women's World Curling Championship, it was divided on whether to back the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club's bid to host the para biathlon and para Nordic events in 2024.
The club hosted the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, which drew 202 competitors from 17 countries for seven days of competition. The city provided $250,000 in grant money to help host the 2019 games, which had a final budget of $2.47 million and generated an estimated $4.42 million in local economic activity, according to Caledonia Nordic Ski Club director of competitions Kevin Pettersen.
After delaying a decision twice, council voted in favour of the funding for the 2024 event in a 6-2 split vote. The city will provide $20,000 this year, $20,000 in 2022 and the remaining $210,000 in 2023.
Both Ramsay and Coun. Teri McConnachie said their key concern is that the city only has $67,000 remaining in its Major Events Reserve. The reserve is normally funded through gaming revenue, city finance director Kris Dalio said.
The city receives 10 per cent of the net revenue of the Treasure Cove Casino in gaming revenue, of which a portion is used to fund the Major Events Reserve and the remaining goes to the city's capital project reserve, Dalio explained.
If casinos are allowed to reopen on July 1 as expected, and if the casino's business returns at a profitable level, there may be enough in the Major Events Reserve to cover the request by the ski club by 2023, Dalio said. If not, the remaining amount would have to be funded through the general tax levy.
"I am not comfortable asking taxpayers to pay for this," Ramsay said. "I just can't support it today. In a five-year window, we're giving one organization half a million dollars. I don't think it is fair to other groups."
McConnachie said the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championship was a great event, but city is not in a position to support the events right now.
"The cupboard is bare. We don't know when we can fill that cupboard again," she said. "There is too high a risk of this having to come from the tax levy."
Coun. Brian Skakun said hosting the event is an investment in the community, pointing out that the Prince George Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter in support of the event.
"This event is really important to them, it's important to the economic recovery of the community," Skakun said. "I definitely support this, it means a lot to the community."
Pettersen told council that hosting international-calibre events allows the club to enhance its facilities for everyone in the community who uses them.
"We have something special here. When we bring in events, that helps us improve our capital infrastructure. We would never get snowmaking (capability) on membership dues," he said. "Our whole mission is to provide a healthy lifestyle."