Organizers struggle to find sponsors for event

For the first time, the Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games will take place in a large city. Calgary will host this sporting event for adults over the age of 55, starting tomorrow.

The event has 1,100 athletes participating and will be taking place in five different venues, with events including badminton, hockey and skiing.

Before this year’s event, Lethbridge had the distinction of being the largest city to host the event. Lethbridge has a population of just over 89,000 — a far cry from Calgary’s population of more than one million.

Joe Elder, 65, stacks the goalie pads to make a save. Hockey is one of 13 events taking place at the 2013 Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games, running Feb. 13-16.

Photo courtesy of Joe Elder

But does this tournament fit in a city like Calgary? Or is it better left to a smaller community like the 2011 host St. Albert, with a population just over 60,000?

Kelly Blackshaw, chair of the 2013 games, says: “Finding sponsorship has been a challenge, as we find that major sponsors, such as major oil and gas companies, like to sponsor youth, the environment and healthcare. 55 plus doesn’t fit with them.

“I hope this event doesn’t go unnoticed by the citizens of Calgary.”

Blackshaw also says that drawing people to the event on the long weekend could be challenging.

Calgary as a young city

Wendy Rodger, senior manager of the Kerby Centre for adults aged 55 plus, says a reason this event may not fit in Calgary is because it has the reputation of being a young city.

Illustration by Quinton Amundson
Data from the Statistics Canada 2011 census reports Calgary’s senior population at 9.95 per cent. Meanwhile, Lethbridge, which is slated to host the event again in 2015, has seniors making up about 15 per cent of its population.

Rodger also says that sponsors do not go for this type of seniors-focused event because in Canada “we don’t value our seniors like other countries do.”

“Even Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples honour their seniors more than mainstream society,” she says.

Rodger says that there are important reasons for sponsors to get involved in the event.

“You always hear seniors saying they don’t want to be a burden to anybody,” she says. “By encouraging physically and cognitively challenging activities, it keeps our seniors healthy and less of a drain on our health care systems and other systems.”

An intimate experience?

The game organizers are trying to keep the athletes together by holding many of the events in the new Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park. However, some events will take place outside of Calgary at the Canmore Nordic Centre and the Nakiska Mountain Resort.

Sixty-five-year-old Joe Elder, goaltender in the hockey tournament, says the smaller communities provide more of an intimate experience because you run into other participants and teams more frequently.

But Ken Parent, a 68-year-old badminton player, says he disagrees. “The intimacy is going to come from the participants,” he says. “The participants are going to gather together whether it is in a big city or a small town.”

The Alberta 55 Plus Winter Games will run through Saturday.

For more information on the event, visit the games’ website.

qamundson@cjournal.ca