Games bid contingent on referendum success

Officials say events are on hold until there is a regulation-sized running track

Residents are being warned that major events are at risk if they shoot down a new sports complex.

The Greater Vernon Advisory Committee has agreed to bid for the 2016 B.C. Seniors Games but that is contingent on local voters agreeing to borrow $7.5 million for a running track and sports field April 6.

“If we don’t have the right facility, we can’t host the B.C. summer or seniors games,” said Tannis Nelson, community development co-ordinator.

The apparent stumbling block is Vernon’s current lack of a sanctioned running track.

“Vernon held the first one (Seniors Games) in Polson Park and every year after, they have said we need a regulation-sized track,” said Mike Macnabb, GVAC chairperson.

“We can’t bid for the Games right now.”

And Macnabb believes the lack of facilities negatively impacts the region as a recent Seniors Games had an economic impact of about $2.5 million.

They are one of the largest sports events organized in B.C., with about 3,500 participants aged 55 plus.

Macnabb also insists that local residents will directly benefit from the sports complex.

“We’re looking at 100,000 people a year using Wesbild Centre for walking. They will be able to use this facility,” he said.

Leading up to the April 6 referendum, GVAC is also considering ways to reduce the financial burden on taxpayers if the facility proceeds.

A grant of $50,000 will be sought from the Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust and the Southern Interior Beetle Action Coalition will receive an application for $10,000.

“We will only borrow what we need, so if we receive grant funding, that will offset borrowing,” said Nelson.

Other grant sources are also being sought.

“There are opportunities communities can take advantage of with Hosting B.C., which supports tournaments,” said Nelson.

Director Jim Garlick supports looking for grants and says it’s incumbent on local politicians to make the proposed facility as financially viable as possible for residents.

“It can be better equipped (with grants). There will be things that need to be purchased for it,” he said.