Juneau may vie for Arctic Games

Involvement in 2014 event would cost city an estimated $4.5M

Posted: Monday, February 08, 2010

The 2014 Arctic Winter Games aren't yet officially being held in Alaska, but that isn't stopping more than one Alaska city from organizing a bid.

Juneau's 2006 bid estimated the cost of the games at about $4.5 million, including several in-kind costs, such as the use of city facilities. Jim Powell, the vice president of Team Alaska Arctic Winter Games, led the push for Juneau to host the 2006 games and said it would most likely cost about the same amount of money in 2014.

"The community where it's held puts up quite a bit of money," said George Smith, who is attending March's games in Grande Prairie, Alberta, and also is involved in the 2014 push.

Smith said revenue can come from opening and closing ceremonies, which usually cost money to attend, as well as products, pins, uniforms, cultural events and event finals.

Some host cities charge for all sporting events. Smith said some money also comes from sponsors, fundraising and from the state.

The games would bring 2,000 athletes and about 500 parents and support staff to Juneau.

The 2008 Arctic Winter Games, held in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, contributed about $4.9 million in Canadian dollars to the GDP and generated $13.2 million in economic activity throughout the Northwest Territories, according to an economic impact assessment released later that year by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance.

The report said combined visitor and operational expenditures totaled $6.6 million, with about $1.8 million in total tax revenue.

But some groups, such as the Alaska Voters Organization, question the actual economic impact of the games.

"Depending on who you ask, the amount of economic impact varies considerably," says a page on the organization's Web site dedicated to parsing Kenai's 2006 winning bid.

The cost of Juneau's 2006 bid was paid by a $45,000 grant from the state legislature, given to all bidding cities.

Mayor Bruce Botelho emphasized at Thursday's meeting that at this point, the city has committed no money to the 2014 bid.

Assembly member and Team Alaska Arctic Winter Games board member Jeff Bush said the Legislature traditionally gives Team Alaska $250,000 per year toward the games. That works out to about $500,000 per game cycle - which still leaves about $300,000 that children and coaches need to raise or pay to travel to where the games are being held.

At least 40 children from Juneau are flying to Grande Prairie in March for the games, said Team Alaska Mission Staff member Kristi West.

Powell and Bush said the fact that the Legislature is located in Juneau and in session during the games gives Juneau's 2014 bid an advantage. Alaska's participants are the only ones not to receive full government funding, Bush said.

"The Legislature decides the funding of the games, so it would help if the Legislature understood it better," he said.

During the last go-round, the push was thwarted, at least in part, by the fog and rain that caused the games' International Committee, which decides the games' location, to land in Sitka.

That's a potential problem organizers plan to address this go-round, guaranteeing participants' transportation to Juneau either by plane or ferry.

Powell also emphasized that Juneau "always" has snow at elevation in March.

Fairbanks, which has hosted the games in the past, is planning to bid; there also are rumors of some other Alaskan cities planning to bid.

In the normal rotation, Alaska would get the bid in 2016; but Greenland, the scheduled host country for 2014, hasn't responded to several inquiries, Powell said.

Organizers should know for sure in the next month; the selection would be made around this time next year.

"I think Juneau has just as good a chance as the others," Bush said.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.



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