Airport Nordic Ski Club president Nick Soper remembers the last time Gander hosted the Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games.
It was the club’s first year at its current location, just off the Trans-Canada Highway.
“At that time, we were just in the emerging stages of our trails and we even had tents set up for the athletes’ village,” he said. “We’re a lot further now than we were back then.”
Gander again gets the chance to prove it’s capable of catering to the masses.
The town has been selected to host the event in 2022.
Approximately 1,600 athletes, ranging in age from 11 to 18 years old, and coaches are expected to participate throughout a week of sporting events.
It will mark 20 years since the town last hosted the provincial gathering of athletes, held every four years. The announcement was made in Gander by MHA John Haggie on April 13.
While there’s no commitment to which sports will be offered, Soper said, the club will do its part to assist in hosting the winter games.
“There’ll be a fair number of athletes on site, and we’ll have to do some special preparation, but we’ll be ready,” he said.
Lots to do
Mayor Percy Farwell said Gander has been down this road before and is looking to get the planning process started immediately.
The host community is responsible for the establishment of accommodations, food, providing networking and socializing opportunities, and other related needs, while hosting numerous sporting events.
“It starts with the town identifying a chair or co-chairs to take on the responsibility of overseeing the organization,” he said. “From that, the committee develops a life of its own… it’s very early in the game, but up-front planning has to take place in terms of getting a structure in place because it’s not something one or two people can oversee.”
Farwell feels the town’s infrastructure can accommodate the majority of sporting requirements, aside from downhill skiing. If it’s selected as a sport, he’s hopeful partnerships can be formed to see those sporting events take place in another town.
Having just one ice surface in town is a bit of a pressure point, Farwell acknowledged, as hockey and figure skating both have to be accommodated.
“We’ll likely be reaching out to see if we can get ice time for a second ice surface, which we did in the 2002 games, but a lot of these sports are indoor/gymnasium based, and we have more gymnasium capacity now than we would in 2002, with the new Pentecostal church and new grades 4-to-6 school … so we’re pretty comfortable with the infrastructure,” he said.
Farwell said hundreds of volunteers will be needed to make it work, and the town is already putting the call out. Those interested in getting involved should contact the Town of Gander’s Recreation and Community Services Department at 651-5927.