COMMUNITY SUPPORT - Gary W. Harris speaks to media following the announcement that the 2019 Winter Games Host Society marked another milestone with the renaming of the Canada Games Celebration Plaza to the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza. Mark Weber/Red Deer Express

WATCH: Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza announced

2019 Winter Games Society marked a another milestone with renaming of downtown plaza

The 2019 Canada Winter Games Host Society marked another milestone on the road to games with the renaming of the Canada Games Celebration Plaza to the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza.

The announcement was made Wednesday at the Central School site, which is set to be complete by this November.

During the Games, the Plaza will play host to major arts and cultural festivals.

“Since the bid, the 2019 Canada Winter Games Host Society and staff have been committed to a vision to bring downtown Red Deer safe, accessible, sustainable and celebration space,” said Lyn Radford, board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games. “The site will ultimately be refurbished into a cultural facility and a community hub.

“This is amazing – Gary called me and said he wanted to do something for the Games. We talked with him, and his contributions through volunteering in this community are just tremendous. So what better way to celebrate a place for volunteers,” said Radford. “The Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza is going to be an incredible legacy for our community and is a true tribute to volunteerism in Central Alberta, with volunteer recognition as an important component of the plaza design.

“It will be nothing like our community has even seen before,” added Radford. “And it will benefit all Red Deerians and the downtown for generations to come.

“Central Alberta is a passionate community that continually steps up to the plate to meet the volunteering and fundraising needs in a major way to ensure the success of not-for-profits and events.”

From Feb. 15th until March 3rd, 2019, the eyes of the nation will be on Red Deer as the City hosts the 2019 Canada Winter Games — the largest multi-sport and cultural event for youth in Canada and the largest event to be hosted in Red Deer’s history, noted a press release.

“Featuring more than 150 events in 19 sports and a major arts and cultural festival, the 2019 Canada Winter Games will welcome up to 3,600 athletes, managers and coaches and more than 100,000 spectators, with a forecasted economic impact of over $132 million.”

Harris said he was thrilled to be part of the Games in this way.

“As Lynn said, this development will assist the downtown Red Deer core north of Ross Street to have a new life; a new outlook,” said Harris. “I’m also very happy that I was able to attend school here,” he said of the Central School site.

“I believe in volunteerism and Central Junior High School was an integral part of my youth, so supporting this initiative that marries two of my passions was an opportunity for me to make a meaningful contribution to my community and leave a legacy,” added Harris.

“I am incredibly proud to have this future community gathering space called the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza in recognition of the valuable contributions of volunteers and to celebrate the 2019 Games.”

Deputy Mayor Lawrence Lee said that revitalization project is also an exciting milestone for the City.

“The Plaza will be a hub during the Canada Winter Games welcoming residents into our downtown – this place will be a place to celebrate and to participate in cultural events not just during that time, but for generations to come,” he said.

Ultimately, the 2019 Games is set to provide a stage for Canada’s next generation of national, international and Olympic champions to compete.

“Hosting the Canada Winter Games has proven to be a catalyst for the City for enhanced economic development,” said Lee. “Following the Games, this building will become the new home for the City’s Cultural Services department.

“The legacy of the Games will continue well beyond March of 2019 as this base both inside and outside will serve as a place that welcomes community life and hosts vibrant community events.

“Revitalizing this building, with a vision to create a vibrant space for community and cultural life, is the result of positive partnerships. And today we celebrate the power of positive partnerships once again.”

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