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Let the games begin

Coquitlam wants to make it easier to host big events - and draw big tourism bucks - to the city's new and improved parks and sports venues.

Coquitlam wants to make it easier to host big events - and draw big tourism bucks - to the city's new and improved parks and sports venues.

The new strategy was unveiled this week at the same time staff formally announced the city's intention to bid on the 2016 BC Summer Games.

The events tourism push comes after the city recently spent around $57 million to modernize the Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex; millions of dollars also have gone into Town Centre Park and Percy Perry Stadium, Mackin Park and the new Chimo Pool.

Recently, council and staff struck a working group and heard from about 50 community stakeholders about how Coquitlam could compete against other Metro Vancouver cities that already have large sporting venues and established tourism policies such as in Surrey and Langley.

In a report titled Celebrate Coquitlam published this month, the think-tank highlighted five factors to make the plan a reality:

having sport and event tourism and destination venues to attract and support events, participants and crowds at local arenas, pools and parks;

establishing partnerships with businesses, community agencies and groups for economic development purposes;

hosting cultural diversity events, adding and possibly consolidating cultural festivals;

holding environmental outdoor recreation events to highlight the city's natural assets;

and establishing a role for the city in creating a one-stop shop at city hall to help outsiders host or facilitate events.

On Monday, Lori MacKay, Coquitlam's general manager of parks, recreation and cultural services, told the recreation committee the city already has a number of successful destination celebrations - including the BC Highland Games and Scottish Festival, Canada Day festivities and the Teddy Bear Picnic - and "there's a desire to do more."

The report, she said, will serve as a guide to move forward and for future budgeting.

Coun. Doug MacDonell, the city's recreation committee chairman, said stakeholders have made it clear they don't want the strategies to fall by the wayside and have asked city council to adopt and implement the policies as soon as possible.

Mayor Richard Stewart said he toured Kamloops last summer and saw how that city is marketing its sports facilities. Coquitlam is in a central location in the Lower Mainland, he said, and "has a tremendous opportunity to do that, too."

Meanwhile, the city is looking for "Games Champions" as city staff prepare the 2016 BC Summer Games bid. Representatives from the local sports, arts, school and tourism sectors will be approached over the next few months and asked to build a team before the application is submitted to the province.

Last year's BC Summer Games in Langley Township generated $2.58 million in direct community spinoffs while the 2008 games in Kelowna brought in $2.6 million.

Coun. Selina Robinson questioned Coquitlam's chances given that the 2012 and 2014 games are in Lower Mainland municipalities but MacKay said the province likes to tie its events with milestones and Coquitlam will mark its 125th birthday in 2016.

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