AWG economic boost studied

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Any group of people – large or small – dropping into the South Slave can only be good for the economy.

And when about 2,000 people converge for the Arctic Winter Games, the benefits are only magnified.

On March 21, Hay River craftsperson Antoinette Aylward, left, discusses her work with Stacey Monaco of Palmer, Alaska, during the Arctic Winter Games Cultural Marketplace at Chief Sunrise Education Centre on the Hay River Reserve. Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

By just how much is the focus of a study on the economic impact of the games from March 18 to March 24.

The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) hired a consultant to study the games as they happened.

Ian Legaree, director of sport, recreation and youth with MACA, said such economic impact studies have been done since the 1990s on most games in various jurisdictions.

“We’re interested in what the economic impact of the games is on the community that’s hosting or the region that’s hosting,” he said. “So we engaged a professional firm to conduct the study and tell us what that was.”

MACA hired the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance.

“They’re recognized experts in the field,” said Legaree. “They’ve done Canada Games, Arctic Winter Games and other sports tourism events for many years now.”

A representative of the alliance was in the South Slave to survey residents and visitors on how much they spent on things like hotels, rental cars, gasoline and restaurants.

Two local groups helped do the surveys. In Hay River, it was the fundraising committee for the graduating class of Diamond Jenness Secondary School. In Fort Smith, it was the business class at Aurora College.

Legaree noted the study also looked at investments in capital projects that are built largely because of the games.

That would include something like Fort Smith’s new snowboarding park, which can also be used by a community for years afterwards.

Legaree said a study helps all levels of government determine the impact of their investments in such sports events and projects, and helps plan for the future.

The MACA official said a public report will probably be finished by the end of summer, after the financial reports are wrapped up by the Arctic Winter Games.

Previous studies have shown the games elsewhere to be worth the investment.

“I’m not aware of a big, major, multi-sport games that hasn’t made a significant economic impact,” said Legaree.

Hay River Mayor Brad Mapes said there is definitely a positive economic impact from the AWG, although he is thinking mostly in the long term.

“When you’re looking at economic development growth, you look at the fact that there are a lot of people that have come to the Arctic Winter Games,” he said. “A lot of them would probably never come to Hay River. Now they’re here and we can showcase what we have, and look forward to seeing them come back in the future.”

Mapes noted he plans to return to Nuuk, Greenland, after first visiting there for the Arctic Winter Games.

The AWG also helps build capacity, he added. “It shows what our community can actually do.”

In Fort Smith, Denise Yuhas, president of the Thebacha Chamber of Commerce, saw more economic activity from an influx of people for the games.

“People seem to be really busy and there are lots of people moving around, and probably bringing a good chunk of cash with them, and lots of shopping bags going down the street,” she said during the games. “So that’s all a good thing.”

Georgina Fabian, a craftsperson on the Hay River Reserve, said the Arctic Winter Games Cultural Marketplace helped her sales.

However, it was enjoyable to just meet visitors and talk about the crafts, she said. “And I tell them stories behind it.”

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