The attention of Saskatchewan's summer sports community will thrust on Estevan in July of 2016, as the Energy City has been awarded the 2016 Saskatchewan Summer Games.
The announcement was made by the Saskatchewan Games Council on November 26 at Spectra Place. Representatives from the Games Council, the Saskatchewan Summer Games site selection committee, and the Estevan bid committee spoke at the press conference.
Swift Current, Melfort and Humboldt were also vying for the Games.
Bid committee co-chairs Brian Smith and Brian Senchuk said they experienced several emotions when they found out that Estevan would host the event: excitement, relief, pride, happiness and shock.
They lauded the efforts of the bid committee members.
"At one of the first meetings, when we looked around the room … we could see winners, we could see people who could achieve goals and reach goals, and have done it in the past," said Senchuk.
Both said they were surprised with how much work went into completing the bid document and preparing for the Summer Games site selection committee's visit, but the bid committee had the right people in place.
They are hopeful that the people who were involved with the bid committee will remain active as it transitions to the 2016 Saskatchewan Summer Games committee.
"We're also probably going to see other people join our group," said Senchuk.
They plan to remain involved, too, and would consider chairing the 2016 Games committee.
"If that's what has to happen, that's what we'll do," said Smith. "But that's not necessarily the case. If someone more qualified steps up and wants to do the job, that's not a problem."
But Smith and Senchuk say they'll remain involved with the Summer Games committee until the end.
One of their first tasks will be to travel to Prince Albert in February for the 2014 Saskatchewan Winter Games.
"We'll learn quite a bit from that experience," said Smith.
The logo for Estevan's games was also unveiled at the press conference. It has the words "Saskatchewan Games Estevan Summer 2016," with graphics of all the sports that will be contested.
"Congratulations to you people from Estevan," said Saskatchewan Games Council past chair Darrell Baker. "We know that your enthusiasm and the community pride will make this a complete success."
Larry Lafrentz, who chaired the site selection committee, said committee members took notes while visiting each community. They analyzed data based on what they saw from all four centres, evaluated each community, and chose their site.
"Suffice it to say, we would have been comfortable hosting it in any of the four cities that made formal bids," said Lafrentz. "The bids were that good, not only in the pre-written form but on the tours."
Two attributes for Estevan stood out: venues and community spirit.
"You are blessed in Estevan with wonderful facilities," said Lafrentz.
Estevan also has choices for the venues that they can use for some of the events in the 2016 Games, Lafrentz said.
Smith paid tribute to those who have invested time and money into improving Estevan's venues.
"All that work done over the past 10 years or so has made us successful," said Smith.
He reflected on 2011, when flooding damaged the Woodlawn Athletic Park and the TS&M Woodlawn Golf Course; those facilities have been restored, and Smith believes they're now better than ever.
Lafrentz also lauded the energy that the community showed during the site selection committee's visit. When they arrived in Estevan, their first stop was a pep rally at the Estevan Comprehensive School.
"It was something that indicated to us in a hurry that the community was engaged in … trying to achieve the bid and … knowing what they had put forward," said Lafrentz.
The speeches from four young southeast athletes – speed swimmer Abbie Reich, baseball player Colton Gingras, track-and-field competitor Michael Chamney and synchronized swimmer Hannah Whitman – at a luncheon during the selection committee's visit also had a lasting impression.
Chamney's message about the need for a new track-and-field facility in Estevan, regardless of whether Estevan secures the Games, resonated with the committee, Lafrentz said.
Enthusiasm, passion and a legacy from the Games were assets that Lafrentz said enhanced Estevan's bid.
The selection committee did have some concerns about the lack of a track and field facility in Estevan, and the cost of constructing such a venue.
But the committee is confident that Estevan will not only build the new track, but it will engage people of all ages for years to come.
"You can't stress enough that it's not being built for just the (2016) Games," said Lafrentz. "It's being built for the future, so that the club athletes, the school athletes, the community that wants a place to walk – all of those groups will use it for years and years."
Swift Current has a new eight-lane, all-weather track that was finished this fall, Lafrentz said, and was a key part of their Games bid.
Senchuk said that fundraising is ongoing for the track. A raffle for four tickets to the Grey Cup, and hotel accommodations, raised about $15,000.
Committee members will also be selling t-shirts to commemorate the Saskatchewan Roughriders victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the Grey Cup.
Estevan will be receiving funding from the Saskatchewan Games Council after they set up a host corporation and sign a tri-party agreement with the Games Council and the City of Estevan. While the money the local Games committee receives could be used for the new track, Smith said he would rather see the money directed towards the other costs associated with the Games.
The 2016 Games are expected to attract more than 2,000 athletes, coaches and officials in 16 sports from the nine sport districts across the province. Estevan will require up to 1,500 volunteers to execute the games.
Sports included for 2016 will be: archery, athletics, baseball, basketball, canoe/kayak, equestrian, golf, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, triathlon and volleyball.
The tentative dates for the 2016 Games are from July 24 to 30.
Estevan last hosted the Saskatchewan Summer Games in 1980.