City gears up for Expo Bid
World's fair could lure a million, but cost billions
The Edmonton Journal
Friday, October 24, 2008
EDMONTON - Edmonton is moving ahead with the biggest event in the city's history after a committee recommended Thursday putting together detailed information for a bid to host Expo 2017.
Staging the world's fair would cost an estimated $1.6 billion to $2.3 billion, draw more than one million tourists to the city and could require up to 40,000 volunteers, but Coun. Karen Leibovici said Edmonton has the capacity to pull it off.
"Some of you may be thinking this might not be the best time, given the budget ... but while it's the role of council to ensure we consider the needs of the day, we also know that we need to look ahead and plan and dream for the future," she told a news conference.
"At the core of all of that is the belief that we're a truly great city, and this will help galvanize us toward that vision."
International rules restrict such fairs to a 25-hectare site, but another 50 to 75 hectares would be needed for outside support services, according to a report supported by a 40-member committee of business and community leaders.
They concluded Edmonton is better positioned to try for a smaller "recognized" Expo rather than the larger "registered" event scheduled for 2020.
While potential sites weren't discussed, it says the ideal location "should offer picturesque, attractive and complimentary views of the host city ... the availability and proximity of green space, water features and other natural elements should be considered."
The 90-day summer event, an opportunity to mark Canada's 150th birthday, would have an expected attendance of 4.7 million.
It would feature pavilions showcasing other nations, non-governmental organizations and corporations, as well as a variety of arts and cultural performances, all following such possible themes as human environmental impact, human movement, the Arctic or global migration.
"There is a need for a theme, a site and a plan to leverage Expo from a three-month opportunity into a lasting legacy that permanently contributes to Alberta's capital city," the report says.
Most of the new roads, transit, housing and other improvements required for the fair would already be part of Edmonton's long-term plans, but built much sooner than expected, city manager Al Maurer said.
That will require support from other levels of government before deciding to go ahead, he said.
"If the lion's share (of the funding) is the City of Edmonton, you probably know what the answer is now. We do need other partners."
The next step is a $4.5-million study outlining the costs, theme, site, economic impact and other details needed so Edmonton can become the Canadian nominee for the fair over such possible rivals as Montreal, Ottawa and Hamilton.
The proposal, which will be discussed by city council next Wednesday, suggests splitting the expense with the provincial government.
The total cost if Edmonton reaches international bidding is estimated at $22.5 million. A final decision on the host city is expected in 2012.
Candice Stasynec, an executive director in Maurer's office, visited this year's $3.3-billion Expo in Zaragoza, Spain, along with Mayor Stephen Mandel and other city officials.
The Spanish organizers used 40,000 volunteers, many of them students, she said. By comparison, Edmonton's 10-day World Master's Games in 2005 needed 5,000 volunteers.
"This would be our biggest undertaking to date. They have been feasible in the past. This would stretch us a bit."
Edmonton has already been chosen as the Canadian bidder for the 2015 Summer World University Games. While Stasynec said financing and staging the two events would be "challenging," she thinks the city could do it.
Mandel said hosting an Expo would be a way to market Edmonton around the world.
"I think we have a heck of a chance. It hasn't been to Canada in a lot of years ... it's Canada's 150th birthday," he said.
"It's a great opportunity for the city. We have to seize the moment for things that are 10 years away."
© The Edmonton Journal 2008
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CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.