Seniors Games a sensational hit for Burnaby

It will be another month or two before organizers of the BC Seniors Games in Burnaby have final financial numbers, but on Monday it appeared to have been a hit with participants, according to Games chair Darlene Gering.

“We had great feedback from the participants, they thought the Games were superb, very well organized and run ... they had a lot of fun,” Gering said.

At the volunteer appreciation event on Sunday, many thanked organizers for the opportunity and expressed a willingness to sign up to help for a future event.

“From our opening ceremonies to all the 26 different events, everything went very smoothly,” said Gering.

Organizers have documented its operations and processes and will present it to the BC Seniors Games Society as a legacy for possible use by future organizing committees. The annual event is in Kamloops next year and in Langley in 2014.

Gering said it was “so inspiring” to see seniors being so active noting she watched an 85-year-old cyclist ride up Burnaby Mountain and “they were just having a great time.”

In all, there were about 3,700 participants. Of those, 800 hailed from the Lower Mainland, and another 1,000 live in the Fraser Valley, Gering said. The rest would have come from the rest of British Columbia, and stayed with friends and family or at local hotels.

Matthew Coyne, executive director of Tourism Burnaby, said all of Burnaby’s hotels were booked solid during the event.

In fact, his office tried to help a couple from Dawson Creek after they encountered a mixup with their hotel reservation.

“We had to send them across to North Van to the Holiday Inn. We couldn’t find a room in the city.”

With the local tourism industry still a “little bit down” and B.C. residents being lured south by the almost-at-par dollar and increased duty-free exemptions, Coyne said, to see Burnaby hotels at 100 per cent occupancy, “we can’t ask for anything else.”

The almost 2,000 volunteers serve as a legacy for the city of Burnaby and its sport tourism efforts and hosting future events, he said.

All the out-of-town visitors also bode well for the future of Burnaby’s tourism industry.

“We generated close to 3,700 ambassadors for Burnaby,” Coyne said. “We’ve heard nothing but good things and positive remarks from all the participants. Not only for Burnaby itself but all our venues and parks and facilities that were used. So hopefully they’ll be looking to return when they want to visit the Lower Mainland again.”

The event was expected to generate $2 million in economic activity for Burnaby. Once the final numbers are in, there could be a financial legacy from the Games itself, said Gering, who noted the event had a strong level of sponsorship support. Any surplus funds will be split evenly between the Games society and Burnaby, with the latter portion earmarked for the seniors community in the city.

• During the Games opening ceremonies, Ida Chong, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, announced $265,950 in new community gaming grant funding for the 10 BC Seniors Games zones in the province.

The money is in addition to the $175,000 the ministry already provides to support the Games. Zone funding pays for uniforms, registration fees, event qualifiers and administrative costs.



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