By JAMES MILLER
Penticton has been chosen as the site of the 2016 BC Winter Games.
The multi-sport event which involves a combined 2,100 athletes, coaches and support staff, will be held in Penticton and the South Okanagan the weekend of Feb. 25-28.
"Our city and region lives and breathes sports," said Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton at the official announcement, Friday morning. "Hosting the BC Winter Games will bring an incredible level of competition to Penticton and region and we're up for the challenge."
Ashton said it's estimated the four-day event will generate a minimum of $1.8-million into the local economy.
He praised the volunteer community for its previous efforts in hosting major sporting events.
"Volunteers will make between 25,000 and 32,000 meals over the four days," Ashton told a crowd of 150 onlookers. "These athletes will return home with stories about how well we treat them and our volunteerism is incredible for whatever the event. You hear it time and time again from visitors about how well they were treated in Penticton."
The 18 sports won't be announced for another year but Lia Threlfall of the BC Games Society said most are permanent staples.
This year's Winter Games, scheduled for next month in Vernon, will include archery, badminton, biathlon, curling, figure skating, gymnastics, hockey, judo, karate, netball, ringette, alpine and cross-country skiing and speed skating.
Ashton said the Games will utilize facilities throughout the city and perhaps the outlining areas. Skiing events will be held at Apex Mountain and Penticton's arenas, curling club and high schools will also host events.
Okanagan Skaha School District chair Ginny Manning said that when the Summer Games were held in Penticton in 1995, teachers used the event within the curriculum by studying various sports and creating signage and letters of encouragement for the participating athletes, among other projects.
Two-time Olympian and retired world champion skier Kristi Richards said being named to the B.C. team in 1995 and later participating in the Games was a huge thrill she's never forgotten.
"I was so proud to be on that team and so excited to travel outside of my zone," she said. "It was something so magical when I walked into that gymnasium (for opening ceremonies) with all the festivities, the singing and dancing. That was the spark that lifted me to new heights and I knew I wanted to experience that feeling again and again."
The BC Winter and Summer Games are held every second year. Penticton was the host of the first BC Summer Games in 1978 and also hosted the Winter Games in 1990.
Ashton said a local co-ordinator will be announced in the near future.