Discover a not-so-cold Prince George at Canada Winter Games
BC Hydro manager puts to rest a few misconceptions about B.C.’s northern capital
Posted by Rob Klovance
Which of the following “facts” about Prince George, host of the 2015 Canada Winter Games, isn’t true?
- An 8.1-metre high colossus, known as Mr. PG, will greet visitors to Prince George.
- An enormous snowman will not greet visitors to the Games, due in part to liability concerns related to climbing kids toppling the big guy.
- An enormous hockey player, Zdeno Chara, played junior hockey for the Prince George Cougars.
- Public transit will be free to everyone during the Games.
- Public transit in Prince George is via dogsled.
- A play about an avid curler making a deal with the devil will be featured by a local theatre company during the Games.
- Canada Winter Games volunteers will be tasked with helping rescue visiting drivers stuck in deep snow and with “swarming” visitors to keep them warm when temperatures dip below -40C.
- The Games is encouraging spectators to bring refillable drink containers to take advantage of tap water at Games venues.
The only things that aren’t true, in case you didn't guess, are public transit via dogsled, and Games volunteers rescuing visitors from snowy roads and cold temperatures.
"It's raining today," says Bob Gammer, a community relations manager with BC Hydro, on the phone from Prince George in late January. “Pretty consistently, we get a warming period in January. … It's not minus 30 or minus 40 all the time. In fact, it’s never minus 40 here.”
Gammer is among a group of BC Hydro employees who have volunteered for the Games, which run February 13th through March 1 in Prince George. BC Hydro has also upgraded key electrical infrastructure for the Games, and has supported free Canada Games public transit under the Students Pave The Way initiative.
Gammer will help visiting media out at a couple of Games events, and has already given more than 100 hours of his time helping plan and organize Games volunteer efforts.
“Prince George is very excited about the Games,” he says. “More than 4,000 residents have volunteered to help make the Games a reality. We require that size of an effort because you have over 2,300 athletes, nearly 1,000 coaches and officials, hundreds of media, athletes’ families and spectators.
“They say we may see upwards of 15,000 people come to Prince George during this 18-day event.”
Gammer says that the calibre of athletes at the Games may be lost on some people. Not only does the Games alumni list include the likes of Catriona LeMay Doan, Hayley Wickenheiser and Sidney Crosby, but former Canada Games athletes were in on 12 of the 25 medals Canada won at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
Gammer and his family had lived at various places around B.C before moving to Prince George 10 years ago. He recalls doing a little research about the city, hearing nothing but positive reviews, then quickly discovering that the city is a fabulous place to raise a family.
Prince George offers a wealth of recreational opportunities, including winter time pursuits such as snowmobiling, cross-country and downhill skiing. It has a pair of post-secondary institutions — the University of Northern British Columbia and the College of New Caledonia — and great access to the rest of Canada via regularly scheduled flights offered by three airlines.
“This is a busy place,” he says. “There are about 90,000 people in the city and the surrounding area, so there’s a lot going on here.”
Despite cross-country skiing and biathlon events at the Otway Nordic Centre, the complex will still be open to the public, which will be able to ski on trails not being used in Games competitions.
For those who don’t get their fill of hockey at the Games, the Prince George Cougars — the team Boston Bruins’ Zdeno Chara played for — will be home for a game on Saturday, February 21 against the Moose Jaw Warriors. And the BC Hockey League’s Prince George Spruce Kings will be home for games against the Langley Riverman on February 27th and 28th.
And then there’s Theatre NorthWest’s production of The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon, the W.O. Mitchell tale of how a shoemaker’s quest for curling success leads him into a game against the devil.
Families visiting Prince George should also check out The Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre, which a few years ago worked with BC Hydro Power Smart on energy-efficiency upgrades projected to save them $800 a year in electricity costs. The popular museum features a paleontology gallery with full-size dinosaur models and fossils, as well as a fabulous First Nations gallery and the Prince George Sports Hall of Fame.
No visitor to Prince George should miss a visit to UNBC, the university that’s celebrating its 25th year and which prides itself on being ‘Canada’s green university.’ The university will host several Games events at its sports venues, plus the closing ceremonies, and has taken a lead role in sustainability at the Games.
It was a student group at the university that launched the fundraising effort for the Students Pave the Way free transit initiative, and the university will use the Games to recruit students with a $2,500 tuition credit for anyone involved in the Games who wants to attend UNBC in the future.
BC Hydro isn't supporting the Canada Winter Games with direct funding, but like the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, we're making improvements to our system — albeit on a much smaller scale — to reduce the risk of an outage and to improve response time in the event of an outage.
BC Hydro's indirect support for the Games includes:
- Electrical system improvements and vegetation management for feeders supplying power to the Games
- Technology upgrades near the Civic Centre in downtown Prince George to assist line crews — in the event of a power outage — in more quickly locating underground line circuit faults and getting the power back on more quickly.
- Coordination with the City of Prince George to keep vaults and pad-mounted transformers clear of snow to allow for quick access at key locations downtown.
- Temporary relocation to Prince George of five spare transformers, to be used in the unlikely event of failures at Games venues.
- A technology upgrade at Austin Road West that will enable crews, in the event of a power outage, to minimize the number of customers affected.
- Replacement of a pole and transformer at Tabor Mountain, site of alpine ski and snowboarding events at the Games, to meet extra load requirements during the Games.
- Support of the Students Pave the Way campaign that has resulted in free public transit in Prince George during the Games.
Canada Games on TV and online
TSN and RDS will be broadcasting 40 hours of Canada Winter Games coverage each in English and French, including coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies. The focus will be on the marquee sports of hockey, curling and speed skating, but daily highlight packages will touch on all sports at the Games.
In addition, more than 900 hours of Games coverage will be available online via the dedicated webcast portal www.canadagamestv.ca.
Rob Klovance is managing editor of bchydro.com.