Fort McMurray loses bid for 2026 Alberta Summer Games to Strathcona County

Encouraging local sports tourism is still a priority for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) and Fort McMurray’s athletic community.

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Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo is not hosting the 2026 Alberta Summer Games after the Alberta government announced Wednesday that the winning bid went to Strathcona County. However, encouraging local sports tourism is still a priority for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) and Fort McMurray’s athletic community.

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“Strathcona County’s exceptional infrastructure, passion for sports and renowned hospitality make it a perfect fit to host the 2026 Alberta Summer Games,” said Nate Glubish, UCP MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park, in a statement.

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The Alberta government asked the RMWB to bid on the games after the region hosted the Arctic Winter Games in February. In June, council unanimously approved creating a committee to pitch hosting the event to Alberta Games. The RMWB would have spent $2.6 million from the emerging issues reserve following a successful bid for the games.

The games are expected to bring about 2,000 to 2,500 coaches, chaperones, officials and athletes to the host community. Athletes are between 11 and 16 years old, and compete in between 10 to 14 sporting events.

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Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo Economic Development and Tourism (FMWBEDT) predicted games of this size would net $3.6 million for the local economy and support 1,482 jobs. Keith Smith, the RMWB’s public works director, said at a June meeting that games of this size can cost between $2 million to $4 million, but costs would be offset by grants and sponsorships.

The bid won the support of community and athletic organizations in Fort McMurray. This included the leadership of Fort McMurray’s public and Catholic schools, Keyano College, the Regional Recreation Corporation, FMWBEDT and Wood Buffalo Sport Connection.

The RMWB’s Sport Strategic Plan says Fort McMurray Wood Buffalo is well prepared for sports tourism and athletic events. Most sports facilities were built or upgraded within the past 15 years. There is a sprawling trail system maintained year-round. The airport can handle international flights.

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Baseball Canada is hosting championships in Fort McMurray during the next three summers. The organization has already hosted four national championships in the city, with the most recent competitions happening last summer.

The 2023 Arctic Winter Games was the largest sporting event hosted by Fort McMurray and a report on its economic impacts will be shown to council in the near future.

Since 2003, Fort McMurray has also hosted the Alberta 55+ Games, 2004 Arctic Winter Games, 2015 Western Canada Summer Games and 2018 Alberta Winter Games.

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