WELLAND - The city had “just a taste” of what the future will hold, said Ian Troop, chief executive officer of Toronto 2015 – the organization bringing the 2015 Pan Am Games to the Golden Horseshoe.
When the summer of 2015 arrives, Welland will be part of a group of communities that will host “the largest multi-sport event” that has ever taken place in Canada’s history, he said.
Troop was one of several guests participating in a event to officially open the first Pan Am Game venue to be completed – the Welland International Flatwater Centre, and to launch a two-year countdown until the Pan Am Games takes place – a sporting event including 41 nations that Troop described as “a celebration that will change us all.”
“They’re coming to Welland – they’re coming to win a medal for their country, to stand on the victors’ podium, and to realize their dreams,” he said. “All of this could not have been possible without the leadership and foresight of your city council and mayor (Barry Sharpe).”
Canadian Olympic Committee president Marcel Aubut riled up the crowd of about 200 people, shouting “Go Canada Go!” and vowing to clean up during the Pan Am Games.
“Two years from now, the Welland International Flatwater Centre will be alive with the electricity and excitement,” he said.
Although visiting countries will bring their A-teams to compete, Aubut said Canada will “bring our A-teams too.”
“Because to Canadians winning matters, and on our home soil or home water it matters more.”
Canada’s Minister of State for Sport Bal Gosal called the “world-class facility” an “important legacy that will help in training and development of top Canadian paddlers, as well as the growth of the sport in southern Ontario.”
Ontario’s Tourism Minister Michael Chan called the countdown launch and ribbon-cutting “truly a momentous occasion.”
He called the WIFC “a place where athletes of all ages and all abilities will have access to learn practice and perfect the canoe, kayak and dragon boat skills at this upgraded facility.”
“It is truly a watershed moment for the city of Welland and the region of Niagara,” Mayor Sharpe said, while congratulating city councillors for supporting efforts to transform an abandoned shipping canal into a recreational waterway that is world class from its south end to the north end, across 7.2 km.
“The Welland Canal is central to our history, and now with these enhancements it is also the key to our future as an international sports tourism destination and a vibrant healthy active community.”
Facility cost: $10-million.
Divvying it up: While the federal government is contributing 56% of the construction cost, ancillary costs drive the city’s share up to $5,063,700
Builder: Toronto-based Elite Construction (selected by Pan Am Games organizers Toronto 2015)
Upgrades include: Canal widening, new timing towers, an athletes centre with training facilities and other amenities, spectator seating area for 500, an outdoor plaza.