Planning starts soon for Games

Greater Vernon and Armstrong-Spallumcheen will host the 2017 55-Plus B.C. Games

The North Okanagan is preparing to bring thousands of athletes together.

Greater Vernon and Armstrong-Spallumcheen will host the 2017 55-Plus B.C. Games (formerly the B.C. Seniors Games).

“I got goosebumps when I told people we got the Games,” said Doug Ross, the City of Vernon’s director of recreation services.

“It will be the largest sports event Vernon has ever hosted.”

The 2015 55-Plus Games in North Vancouver drew 3,277 participants in 20 activities, and those at the Greater Vernon Games could swell to 4,000.

Planning will ramp up in January 2016.

“They (55-Plus Games) will send people to see us and give us an idea of the structure we should put in place,” said Ross.

The first key step will be establishing an organizing committee, including a president.

“We have so many capable people in the community that can step up. The hard part will be choosing,” said Ross.

Existing facilities throughout Greater Vernon and Armstrong will be used during the Games.

“We don’t have to build anything or drastically renovate anything,” said Ross.

Two hubs will be established as gathering places for athletes and spectators — the Vernon Recreation Complex and the Armstrong fairgrounds.

The B.C. Senior Games Society estimates an economic impact of about $2 million for the host.

“They buy their own meals and pay for their own hotel rooms,” said Ross of the athletes.

“They fill up their car with gas and shop at our stores. With the previous games, local crafts were flying off the shelves at vendor tables. Local products will do well.”

The city applied for the Games earlier this year, and Ross insists support from local sports groups and facility operators was critical.

“Without all of them, the bid wouldn’t have been successful.”

The 2017 Games will mark the 55-Plus B.C. Games’ 30th anniversary and the City of Vernon’s 125th birthday.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to highlight the strength of the partnerships in our region with the support of our neighbouring communities: Armstrong, Spallumcheen, Coldstream and Areas B and C,” said Akbal Mund, Vernon’s mayor.

The successful bid is garnering excitement in Armstrong.

“I am sure a lot of our residents will participate, and volunteer to help host the events,” said Mayor Chris Pieper.