St. John's might have been the sole bidder for the 2025 Canada Games — but it's still celebrating

·3 min read
Danny Breen is the mayor of St. John's, which is kicking in more than $5 million to host the Canada Games, with Breen estimating an economic return of about $100 million. (Josee Basque/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Danny Breen is the mayor of St. John's, which is kicking in more than $5 million to host the Canada Games, with Breen estimating an economic return of about $100 million. (Josee Basque/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Politicians, organizers and athletes in St. John's on Thursday celebrated the city's successful bid to host the 2025 Canada Summer Games, and the thousands of competitors and visitors expected to descend and pump in cash to the economy.

The event, a marquee competition for young amateur athletes from every province and territory, is set for Aug. 2-24, 2025. It will welcome about 2,000 athletes and bring in 20,000 people, say organizers, numbers that seem unimaginable in light of Newfoundland and Labrador's current travel restrictions.

"It's hard to believe when you think about where we are right now," said Premier Andrew Furey at the event inside the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Centre, with attendees physically distanced and masked, while others appeared virtually.

One of those virtual participants — Lynn Blouin, the chair of the 2025 bid evaluation committee — commended the city's "remarkable" bid that found success despite the challenges of COVID-19.

"In an unprecedented bid evaluation process, you have went above and beyond to showcase the wonders of your community," Blouin said in a pre-taped video message.

In a nod to the city's unpredictable summer weather — a place where tuques never go astray, no matter the month — Blouin held up her mittened hands and said, "Je suis prêt" — I am ready.

Multimillion-dollar event

St. John's Mayor Danny Breen said it has an operating budget of $31.8 million, with a $13.4 capital budget. He couched those numbers with the city's estimated economic return of $100 million, far more than what came in during the city's hosting of the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier.

"To put that in perspective, that's 10 Briers in two weeks. So that's a significant impact," Breen said.

To pull off the games, funding from all three levels of government has been committed, including $16.25 million from the federal government. Without that cash, Furey said the event "would not be possible."

The City of St. John's is pumping in more than $5 million, more than half that set aside for capital investments, including in venues like the King George V soccer field or St. Pat's Ball Park.

Both those venues date back to the last time the city hosted the Canada Summer Games, in 1977, and Breen said they'll be used again this time around, along with others.

A Newfoundland and Labrador-hosted Canada Games has been in the works for years; in 2015, the province swapped dates with Ontario, in order to buy more time to get the needed infrastructure up to speed. The St. John's bid — there were no other entrants — has had its share of criticism, including the concern that the infrastructure won't be ready in time.

Breen focused on optimism Thursday, and said Canada Games facilities encourage athleticism.

"These investments will create incredible economic activity, but they also leave important legacies," he said.

Jennifer Boland, who competed on the track for Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the 2017 Canada Summer Games, says the experience was a memorable one.
Jennifer Boland, who competed on the track for Team Newfoundland and Labrador at the 2017 Canada Summer Games, says the experience was a memorable one.(Josee Basque/Radio Canada)

Furey urged people to look beyond the pandemic circumstances toward a hope for "a new normal" at the Games's athletic offerings.

"Particularly to our athletes, if the pandemic has dampened your spirit, let this be what reignites your spirit and passion for your sport," he said. "We will get through this, and you will have an amazing opportunity to shine in your chosen sport, as your province and country cheers you on."

Canada Games alumni formed part of the city's successful bid, and spoke Thursday of their past fond memories and formative experiences.

"It was in Winnipeg where I broke the 100-metre provincial record that i had been chasing after for four years. That was quite possibly the highlight of my athletic career," said Jennifer Boland, a member of Team Newfoundland and Labrador in 2017.

"Those Games were critical in my development as not only an athlete but better yet as a person."

Along with the 1977 Games, Newfoundland and Labrador has also hosted one winter Canada Games, in 1999 in Corner Brook.

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