Thompson residents glad to have cause for celebration as preparations underway for Manitoba Winter Games – Manitoba

Work is well underway in Thompson, Man., to upgrade hockey rinks, the curling club and the local ski hill as the northern city prepares to host the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games in March.

The Games, which involve nearly 2,000 athletes and up to 1,000 volunteers, are coming at a time when Thompson needs something to celebrate.

The city, approximately 650 kilometres north of Winnipeg, is facing economic challenges with more expected job losses at Vale Canada, one of Thompson’s largest employers. The mining company announced it will close its nickel smelting and refining operations in 2018, affecting up to 500 workers in the city of just over 13,000 people.

Thompson Mayor Dennis Fenske said the Games will be a joyful distraction.

“It’s just the atmosphere that the kids bring, the spirit — it just sort of reinvigorates you to be excited about the times, even though we do have some economic impacts around us,” said Fenske.

That sentiment is echoed by Thompson resident David Martin, who is co-ordinating the Games.

“It’s great to be able to show that we have the resources to execute this and also that there is more to the North than resource-driven opportunity. I think the payouts from this will go well into the future,” said Martin.

Fifteen-year-old Reid McDonald talks technique with ski coach Scott Luxton. Luxton and other volunteers hope to re-establish a competitive ski team in Thompson before the 2018 Manitoba Winter Games. (Brett Purdy/CBC)

Martin is seeing those payouts first-hand. He took on Winter Games co-ordinator job in May, a few months after Thompson took over the Games from Virden, Man., which backed out of hosting because of a lack of volunteers.

Thompson will host the Winter Games — held every four years — March 4-10. Events include archery, badminton, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, gymnastics, hockey, ringette, speedskating, wrestling and table tennis.

Martin said despite the condensed time frame to get…

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