The City of Grande Prairie will work with the local Special Olympics Committee to make a bid to host the 2025 Alberta Special Olympics Summer Games, council decided on Monday (Aug. 22).
“A lot of our athletes don't have the ability to travel and participate in other sports with other Special Olympians in other communities for various reasons; by having all the province come to Grande Prairie, they're exposed to other people, develop friendships and playing the sports, and it just increases their personal value,” said Maxx Bouchard, Grande Prairie Special Olympics chair.
He noted that many sporting events were shut down due to COVID, and now the Grande Prairie chapter of the Special Olympics is looking to start its sporting events again.
Bouchard noted the community support for the Special Olympics has been tremendous in the past and believes it will continue.
“The provincial games are likely going to be the highest level of competition for many athletes within the Special Olympics,” said Courtney Roy, director of work development for Special Olympics Alberta.
She noted there are no age ranges in the Special Olympics, and many of the athletes would be competing for 20 to 30 years.
Ten sports would be competed in at the summer games, including basketball, bocce, tennis, bowling, golf, powerlifting, rhythmic gymnastics, soccer, softball and swimming, said Roy.
Approximately 1,400 people would be heading to the city for the games on a weekend in July 2025.
“I think it's a really great opportunity to use the city of Grande Prairie or the facilities alone,” said Roy.
Previous games have seen over 900 athletes attend the games, said Roy.
Bouchard says there are about 200 athletes in the Grande Prairie region, including Beaverlodge, Sexsmith and the county.
Savannah Lussier, a local athlete, also attended council to share her support for bringing the games to her hometown, noting it would make her especially happy to see them in Grande Prairie.
The template budget for the cost of the games is currently around $235,000, said Roy, noting there is a percentage the Games organizers would also contribute (up to $100,000).
“It really depends also on the factors of accommodation and food vendors and transportation,” said Roy.
City administration informed council that the cost for the bid would be minimal as much of the work was recently done in the bid for the Alberta Winter Games bid, and they would be looking for letters of support from regional partners.
A funding source from the city would be determined at a later time if the bid is successful, said city administration noting many possible funding sources.
The Grande Prairie Special Olympics was given the opportunity to bid independently if they wanted, but Bouchard believes the city is better equipped for the task.
He said the city can financially support the games and has the resources to better-allocated insurance, transportation, and find different venues.
“The city can do that quite quickly, and they don't have to go through a permit process like I would,” he said.
“It's going to be a rebuilding time this fall and winter, to bring in more volunteers and increase our numbers, not only in the sports and coaching staff but also for fundraising,” says Bouchard.
Roy says Alberta has over 26 communities currently running programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and every two years, provincial games are held.
Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News