Nearly two decades ago, Danny Cleary, then 13, helped lead the host side to a gold medal in ball hockey at the 1992 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games, co-hosted by Harbour Grace and Carbonear.
Those two Conception Bay North towns will once again team up, this time to host the 2012 Provincial Summer Games and Harbour Grace Mayor Don Coombs would like Cleary — born in Carbonear and raised in Harbour Grace — to again be part of the sporting event, if the Detroit Red Wings forward’s schedule permits.
“We need to have a patron, so it’s on the radar. The timing is good. The last time we had (the Games) in August, and his hockey camps are (here) August. So there’ll be an offer to (Cleary) to be part of these Games,” said Coombs on Monday in Conception Bay South, where the host communities for the next three Provincial Games were revealed.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation Terry French also announced Clarenville will be site of the 2014 winter event, with C.B.S. hosting the 2016 Summer Games.
“We’ve got great volunteers, and most of the infrastructure is already in place,” said Coombs, who was joined by Carbonear Mayor Sam Slade for the announcement.
“There’s a good government grant that comes with it, there are good people involved. Now we’ve got to get some good sponsors on board, which is important.
“When the kids arrive in Harbour Grace and Carbonear, we’ll be ready and they’ll feel at home.”
When the towns co-hosted the event in 1992, Coombs says a great deal of money was spent creating new infrastructure, including a baseball field and soccer pitch. This time, most of the improvements will be what he terms “cosmetic” upgrades to existing facilities as opposed to new construction.
The plan, says Coombs, is to expand the Games beyond the two host communities in an effort to include different sports, such as beach volleyball and rowing, to bolster their volunteer base and make it a regional celebration of sport and recreation.
Like Conception Bay North, it will be 20 years since Clarenville last hosted a Games, but Mayor Fred Best maintains his town remains the ideal place on the province’s east coast to hold a winter sports festival.
“In St. John’s, they’ve got almost no snow. Right now, we’ve adequate snow in Clarenville for downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skidooing,” Best stated Monday.
“And that’s the message we’ve got to promote: If there’s no snow in St. John’s, come to Clarenville and you’ll get the snow belt.”
With the 1994 Winter Games complex still in use and connected to the new Clarenville Events Centre, plus three consecutive winters of upgrades to the town’s extensive system of cross-country ski trails and big improvements coming to the White Hills snow-making facilities, Best feels his community could host a Games next year if they had to.
Clarenville doesn’t have the same large regional population base as say Grand Falls-Windsor, which hosted the last Winter Games earlier just under a year ago, but Best says Clarenville’s volunteers are more than capable of meeting the challenge.
“Twenty years ago, we had the participation of the whole community ... everyone was completely enthralled by the Winter Games. It was big thing happening in our small community and I anticipate the same type of atmosphere in 2014,” he said.
The 20-year separation between turns as a Games host will also apply to Conception Bay South, which was represented at Monday’s announcement by Deputy Mayor John Hicks, who was a 21-year-old university student when the 1996 Games were in C.B.S.
“I remember the feeling in the town of being highlighted for the whole province to see, and having all these visitors in C.B.S. (made for) a great time” said Hicks, who believes the Games will only help to further solidify the amalgamated town’s identity, “not just for the people who have moved here, but for the people who’ve lived here all their lives.”
C.B.S. will spend the time leading up to the Games building its volunteer base and assessing facilities to determine if the events will be held exclusively in C.B.S. or if other communities will have to be utilized to take advantage of specialized facilities such as those associated with track and field, which currently do not exist in the town.
“It’s great that we’ve got five years. We’ll have a lot of time to plan this and do it right,” said Hicks.