Battlefords Now: The 2024 Saskatchewan Summer Games has massive potential for Lloydminster, region
Oct 29, 2021

Summer Games potential for massive impact in Lloydminster, region

October 29, 2021

Battlefords Now

Josh Ryan

A pandemic took away the border city’s biggest opportunity to host the province in years, but as restrictions lift, a new boost of excitement for the future is back.

Lloydminster is the host city of the 2024 Saskatchewan Summer Games, following the cancellation of the 2020 Games. Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers said they’re thrilled to have another shot.

“To have to cancel the games was a sad state, but to be given a second opportunity by the Sask. Games Council was incredible,” Aalbers said. “Thank you [Sask Games Council] for the confidence that we can deliver the best Games Saskatchewan has ever had in 2024.”

The Saskatchewan Games Council is providing $250,000 in matching grant funding to Lloydminster that will go towards capital projects and equipment as well as a $420,000 operating grant.

Aalbers said the city has shown itself capable of hosting major events in the past and believes this could be the crown jewel of renewed investment in the community. More than 5,000 visitors from across the province typically attend during the weeklong event.

‘We are the centre of the province during the games, bringing the best of the best,” he said. “I think that will be highlighted in our community.”

Regional impact

Battleford Mayor Ames Leslie congratulated Mayor Aalbers and the City of Lloydminster on Thursday, noting that they are well positioned to take on these games.

“Lloydminster has always hosted top notch events and I feel that given an event of this [stature], they will take it to the next level of excellence,” he told battlefordsNOW.

Leslie said having these games so close to the Battlefords and other neighbouring communities will have a significant impact, as it allows for tremendous local support during the event.

“This will allow us to fill venues with “Battlefords pride” and cheer on each athlete to personal their bests,” he said.

Continuing great work

The Co-Chair’s for the 2024 Games Host Society are Aaron Rawlake and Wendy Plandowski, who are both long-time members of the sports community in Lloydminster. Having worked with her before on other events, Rawlake said he’s excited to partner with Plandowski on guiding this process over the next three years, as she was in a similar role when Lloydminster last hosted the Summer Games in 2008.

“She brings a massive amount of experience, so I thought it would be great to work with her again and bring the 2024 Games back to Lloydminster,” he said.

Some of their challenges have been lessened, due to the work of the previous Host Society leading up to 2020. This includes full renovations to two ball diamonds, an expansion to the tennis court system in Bud Miller Park, purchasing timing equipment for swimming competitions and a resurfacing of the community track at Lloydminster Comprehensive High School.

“Wendy and I were commenting to each other that you almost feel a bit guilty picking up on a massive amount of the previous left committee did,” Rawlake said. “We know we have the facilities and infrastructure, now it’s just working with our partners to ramp it up and make it the best experience for our athletes that we can.”

“We’ll revisit all of our sport partners and see where they’re at.”

One of the interesting possibilities for these Games is to potentially add events, such as beach volleyball, a sport that has grown in popularity in both the region and the province. Given his extensive background with the local volleyball scene, which includes working as an assistant coach from the Lakeland Rustlers, Rawlake said he would love to see it added, but that there’s plenty of other items to attend to first.

“I’m not invested in the logistics of adding a new sport yet, but if we were to add one, that’s a natural fit for a summer event,” he said.

The City has recently invested in an expansion of the beach volleyball courts in Bud Miller Park, which are right next to the tennis courts, aquatic centre and Lakeland College gymnasium and within walking distance of the community track.

Apart from the logistics and infrastructure, Rawlake said the main focus is the athlete experience and helping youth sports locally, so that they can populate teams with kids from the area.

“[They] can compete in their hometown, sleeping in your own bed and have a heck of an experience,” he said. “I was lucky enough to have an Alberta Summer Games in my hometown while growing up and that’s a big part of what I want to give back.

“To be able to see 2,000 young athletes smiling ear to ear is why we wanted to do this.”

The Games are tentatively scheduled for August in 2024.

With files from Lloydminster Meridian Source.