The Matanuska-Susitna Borough has officially thrown its hat in the ring by entering a bid to be the host community for the 2024 Arctic Winter Games (AWG). The Arctic Winter Games is a high profile circumpolar sport competition for northern and arctic athletes. The Games celebrate sport, social exchange and cultures. The Games provide an opportunity for the developing athlete to compete in friendly competition while sharing cultural values from northern regions around the world.
The February 19, 2021 submission was emailed to the AWG Operations Coordinator, Moira Lassen, who was quick to respond. “Thank you so much for the 2024 Arctic Winter Games bid for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; the document has been well received.” Typically, it takes about three weeks for completion of the review process before a decision is made.
The Borough Assembly voted to move forward with the bid during the February 2, 2021, regular Assembly meeting. They also agreed to appropriate $250,000 for start-up and organizational costs. Jumping in with their support, the state of Alaska decided to chip in by verbally committing to a contribution of $2 million. Additionally, the Arctic Winter Games International Committee has $50,000 remaining from a previous games in Fairbanks that will be donated to the host of the 2024 games. The estimated amount needed for the games could run between $4 million to $6 million, but will largely be covered through grants, sponsorships and in-kind donations.
The year 1970 marked the first year for the Arctic Winter Games, held in Yellowknife, the Northwest Territories' capital. About 500 athletes, coaches and officials attended this inaugural event. These northern participants came from the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska, all competing within the context of cultural exchange and values, which happens to be one of the official goals of the Arctic Winter Games: “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.”
Alaska has hosted the games a total of six times in the past 50 years, with Fairbanks having been host to three of them and the only repeat destination in Alaska. If this bid is approved, it will be the first time the Arctic Winter Games were hosted in the Mat-Su, a place that is quickly becoming Southcentral’s destination for outdoor winter recreation and competition. This fact, combined with the steady growth, makes the Mat-Su an obvious choice for the games to many residents. Borough Planning Services Manager, Kim Sollien has seen this enthusiasm first-hand, as residents line up in advance of any official decision to offer their time and skills to make the 2024 Arctic Winter Games a reality. “The energy and excitement the community, sporting clubs, the Mat-Su School District, local Tribal organizations and the cities expressed about hosting the 2024 Arctic Winter Games has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Sollien. “Almost everyone I spoke with about the MSB’s interest in being a host community of Games resulted in a story about how special and unique the Games were to them and an enthusiastic offer to support our efforts in any way. It is rare to work on a project that has touched so many people in such a positive way. I am looking forward to working with the community to ensure our Games also leave a lasting and positive impression on our community.”