Remembering Winnipeg’s Pan American Games
WE’RE at the mid-point of the 2015 Pan American Games and by all accounts the games are proceeding successfully and Canada is performing very well. There has been a lot of preparation for these games both in terms of athletes and facilities and the end results could lead to something much bigger. It was only 16 years ago when Winnipeg hosted the 1999 Pan Am Games; up until now we are the only Canadian city to host these games twice (we also hosted the games in 1967.) There was tremendous excitement and energy throughout Winnipeg in 1999 and this town was alive with Pan Am fever. I have no doubt that Toronto is experiencing their share of excitement too; however, there is no way that this event takes over such a large metropolitan area like it did here in 1999. For Winnipeg, the Pan Am Games were our Olympics. We hosted more athletes and sports than any other event outside the summer Olympics, more than the winter and games and considerably more than the Commonwealth Games. Toronto, I suspect, is going through the same exercise that Rio de Janeiro did in 2007; prove yourself by hosting the Pan Ams before we can consider you for the Olympics. It worked for Rio who won the 2016 bid. I have no doubt it will work for Toronto too. This year’s games in Toronto have an operating cost approximately 20 times the cost for the Winnipeg games. There will no doubt be a tremendous sport legacy, however this column is typically about housing. How did the 1999 Pan American Games impact housing in Winnipeg and the surrounding area? For one, we were a bit of an unknown commodity in Central and South America. Our games kick-started the Provincial Nominee Program, provided an impetus for north-south trade corridors and encouraged people to move here, thereby requiring more housing. Neighbourhoods improved via new athletic facilities. The new baseball stadium invigorated downtown Winnipeg and brought thousands of people to the area in the evenings and weekends, not only then but for years afterwards for Goldeyes games. The easiest move would have been to put artificial turf for a hockey field at the University of Manitoba. However, by locating it by Kildonan East Collegiate, minor football and myriad of other activities rejuvenated the area. An expanded pool in River Heights, archery in Tuxedo, water-skiing in Transcona, cycling in Bird’s Hill, rowing in Minnedosa, sailing in Gimli, cycling and equestrian at the Red River Ex, five sports in Fort Richmond and five more in the heart of downtown all brought heightened attention to where we live. As I said earlier, I have no doubt Toronto will do an excellent job with this year’s games, but in 1999, Winnipeg was the centre of the universe.
Mike Moore is president of the Manitoba Home Builders’ Association