Lethbridge has a rich sports tradition.
Today, the city is home to a Western Hockey League franchise, a Western Major Baseball League team and many college and university sports teams. That's not even to mention the diverse and ultra-competitive high school sports scene, which produces some of the best teams in the province each and every year, at any level.
So it comes as no surprise Lethbridge would be looked upon to continually host high-level provincial and regional sports events, as it has regularly in recent years.
Tuesday's announcement our city has been named the host for the 2015 Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games is proof Lethbridge still has much to give to the sports community, both inside and outside the city's boundaries.
The success of the last Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games in Lethbridge, in 2009, and the fact the city just hosted the 2012 Alberta Summer Games and the Ford World Women's Curling Championship, confirms what many in our corner of southern Alberta already know - sports continues to be a very important part of the social fabric of this community.
That importance is bolstered by a dedicated and vast network of volunteers, who build sports from the ground up, from Little League and the minor hockey ranks all the way up to the very highest ranks of amateur and collegiate competition. Without those people, Lethbridge's sporting diversity, and the rich tradition which has developed, would not have been possible.
Those volunteers will be leaned upon again to host a successful event in 2015, as approximately 800 helpers will be required, but if the past is any indication, the city will step up again to host a first-class event.
Already, volunteers who lead the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization and Nord-Bridge Seniors Centre have been working to bring the Games to Lethbridge, and have secured a $150,000 grant from the city. The provincial government has already kicked in $265,000 and make no mistake, those funds will pay dividends in the end.
Estimates point to an economic impact for the city in the neighbourhood of $800,000, as 1,100 participants are expected to descend upon Lethbridge in 2015. Local businesses can expect to see a boost but just as important, those visitors will have an opportunity to experience our hospitality and an opportunity to spread the word and help buoy Lethbridge's reputation provincewide.
The 2015 Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games will be another feather in Lethbridge's cap, and further proof our city is an integral part of Alberta's sports identity.