Wood Buffalo booms through a busting 2015

By DAWN BOOTH, Managing Editor of Connect Weekly

Kim Rizzi, general manager of the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, at the Closing Ceremonies on August 16, 2015.  PHOTO: Joanne Leitch, Connect Weekly.

Kim Rizzi, general manager of the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games, at the Closing Ceremonies on August 16, 2015. PHOTO: Joanne Leitch, Connect Weekly.

Last year started off quickly with the announcement of 2015 being officially declared as “The Year of Sport” in Wood Buffalo from Mayor Melissa Blake.

On January 31 (less than a week after), an article titled: ‘There will be blood’ in Canada from oil price collapse, JPMorgan warns was published in The Globe and Mail. It stated: “A major U.S. bank is warning Canadians what to expect from the rout in the oil market: “There will be blood.” Those were the words aimed at Alberta from Wall Street giant: JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The months that followed were an economic roller coaster of lay-off lows (and historic highs in the city), as the impact revealed itself and rippled across Canada – from coast to coast.

All eyes were on the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB). Coincidentally, the city was already preparing for watchful eyes, as major sports television networks like TSN and Sportsnet would be making their way to cover Fort McMurray’s first-ever CFL games and the highly-anticipated 2015 Wood Buffalo Western Canada Summer Games.

While many reflect on the region’s downfalls and skeptical decisions made, “Sing with me… Sing for the year”… lyrics were brought out loud and strong from the Shell Place stage in a historic moment back on July 19, 2015. Welcoming Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and his ‘Blue Army’ was a first for Fort McMurray.

It was the opening of the Shell Place that was one of the biggest events in Wood Buffalo for 2015. It created a chain reaction on many others: the first CFL Game in Fort McMurray for the Northern Kickoff with the Edmonton Eskimos vs. the Saskatchewan Roughriders, the first time performance of Aerosmith, and the first professional soccer game with FC Edmonton vs. Ottawa Fury FC.

Rewind back to when the Shell Place doors first officially opened on June 12, 2015. In hopes to make a Guinness World record title for the most attendants at the ribbon cutting ceremony, the event didn’t claim an official title, but made a mark for a community record with over 2,400 guests taking part.

Breaking community records were a continued highlight to the year, including two successes with the Northern Lights Regional Health Foundation announcing the most profit raised with $550,000 at their 26th annual Festival of Trees event; and the organizers of Santas Anonymous putting together a record-number of 700 Christmas hampers for local residents in need.

Another blooming boom for Wood Buffalo was hosting the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games. On the day of the Opening Ceremonies, members of the 21st Edition of the Communities in Bloom National Symposium and Awards were in Fort McMurray judging the beautification of the community.

Another blooming boom for Wood Buffalo was hosting the 2015 Western Canada Summer Games. On the day of the Opening Ceremonies, members of the 21st Edition of the Communities in Bloom National Symposium and Awards were in Fort McMurray judging the beautification of the community. Later, the judges awarded the RMWB with the 5 Blooms Silver title on October 3. As for the Games, it marked the largest multi-sport event hosted in the municipality and brought in over 2,500 athletes from four western provinces and three northern territories.

But with such success, the community has also faced a decrease in residents, the fast fall of housing sales and prices, and an increase to 70 per cent of resident reliance on the local food bank. Putting optimism towards the 2016th year, the Province is projected to announce the twinning completion of Highway 63. Locals can hope this paves the way to a better financial future in Fort McMurray.

– Connect Weekly –