April 28, 2021
The Arctic Winter Games is coming to the Mat-Su Borough in 2024.
Home to the Iditarod Restart, the Irondog, the Iditasport, Iditarod Trail Invitational, the Su 50/100 and cross-country regional races, the Mat-Su Borough has become Southcentral’s destination for outdoor winter recreation and competition.
This week, the Arctic Winter Games International Committee (AWGIC) made the big announcement of the Borough’s successful bid and wished the Borough success. “The Mat-Su Borough 2024 Arctic Winter Games bid was extremely professional and well received by the International Bid Review Committee,” said John Flynn, President of the AWGIC. Due to the challenges of COVID-19, the AWGIC were unable to visit the Mat-Su Borough in person. It was the first time that a virtual tour was used to present a location for review. Committee MemberJohn Estle was impressed, “The virtual tour really wowed me. The enthusiasm from the community and partners was really felt through the entire tour.”
The Arctic Winter Games haven’t been in Alaska since 2014, when Fairbanks last hosted the international circumpolar sport and cultural event for youth. Hosting the Arctic Winter Games has been on the Mat-Su Borough’s radar since 1996; however, they did not have the facilities or community resources to be a successful host. That has all changed in recent years. Facilities such as Skeetawk, the new alpine ski area located in Hatcher Pass; Government Peak Recreation Area, a growing Nordic ski area designed by an Olympian; Curtis D Menard Sports Complex, a facility with both an ice rink, a soccer field and able to host 5,000 guests.
Last year, Alaska’s Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer reached out to communities across Alaska, inquiring about who would be interested in submitting a bid to host the 2024 games and the Mat-Su Borough enthusiastically embraced the challenge. “Congratulations to the Mat-Su Borough on being selected to host the 2024 Arctic Winter Games. The State of Alaska is fully behind the Borough’s efforts to host the Games and we look forward to showing off the best Alaska has to offer with our hospitality, our competitive athletes, and our vast beautiful State.”
Standing on the runners of his dog sled, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Vern Halter spoke of the Borough as the ideal winter sports venue. “When I heard about the request to host the Arctic Winter Games, I knew the Mat-Su Borough was the perfect place. We have tremendous outdoor facilities and ski trail systems. The hockey, the snow shoeing, the cross-country skiing, all of these winter events we’re famous for, and I’d certainly love to see sled dog racing brought back and fat tire bike racing added as a new event. I’m confident the Borough staff and all our partners will put on the best winter games ever.”
Held every two-years, the Arctic Winter Games hosts up to 2,000 participants and another 2,000 volunteers. Athletes from the circumpolar north will travel from across the Arctic; Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territory, Northern Alberta, Nunavut, Nunavik Quebec, Greenland, Yamal (Russia), and Sapmi (Scandinavia). The week-long competition, featuring 21 sports, includes traditional Arctic Sports, Dene games and, yet to be determined, regional sports, such as dog mushing and fat tire bike racing. Details of which sport, age categories and venue allocation will be announced at a later date.
The Mat-Su Borough Assembly voted to move forward with the bid during the Feb. 2, 2021, regular Assembly meeting and agreed to appropriate $250,000 for start-up and organizational costs. Additionally, the Fairbanks AWG Host Society has set aside an extra $50,000 in proceeds from their Games to support the effort. . The total amount needed for hosting the games may be $4 million to $6 million, but will largely be covered through grants, sponsorships, and in-kind donations.
According to the AWG website, one of the official goals of the Arctic Winter Games is, “An opportunity to strengthen sport development in the participants’ jurisdictions, to promote the benefits of sport, to build partnerships, and to promote culture and values.” In step with those goals, the Mat-Su Borough will be working with the Chickaloon Village Traditional Council and other local Tribal organizations to develop this cultural program.
The Mat-Su Borough will be the fifth Alaskan community to host the games in Alaska. Borough Manager Mike Brown says the Arctic Winter Games have wide support. “I am delighted to hear the news. I believe our community is ready to host an event like this, and that it will be a great benefit to the athletes and our community. I appreciate the support we received during bid submission from the cities of Wasilla and Palmer,Mat-Su Borough School district, multiple community groups and organizations, and the Wasilla and Palmer Chambers of Commerce. It is clear there is a high level of engagement and enthusiasm to host these games,” Brown said.
Russ Krafft, Purchasing Officer (907) 861-8639
Kim Sollien, Planning Services Manager (907) 861-8514
Stefan Hinman, Mat-Su Borough Public Affairs Director (907) 982-2805