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BC to see $77M in economic spinoff from X Games, says bid team

When it comes to convincing higher levels of government to kick in money to host the X Games, Whistler is letting the numbers tell the story. And the numbers are compelling.

The economic impact throughout B.C. of hosting the X Games in Whistler is an estimated $77 million. The province will be impacted directly to the tune of $17 million in taxes collected.

And that $77 million doesn't include the tens of millions of dollars in media and marketing for the resort and the province.

"(It's) showing them (the provincial and federal governments) that there's a return on their investment on the financial side and showing them that there's return on the marketing value — promoting British Columbia and Canada," said Mark Taylor, Whistler's X Games bid chair.

It is not clear how much money Whistler's Bid Committee needs from the provincial and federal governments in order to convince ESPN that there's a financially viable model to host a Global X Games event in Whistler for three years beginning in April 2013.

To date the municipality, Tourism Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb have each pledged $250,000 each year over three years.

When asked about the funding request, the B.C. Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation emailed this statement to the Pique this week:

"The Province received a presentation by the Municipality of Whistler last month on their proposed bid for ESPN's X Games. We have requested additional information and we are working with the bid committee to see how the Province can support their efforts.

Skiing and snowboarding are key areas of focus in Gaining the Edge, our new five-year tourism strategy, and we are always looking for new and innovative ways (to) market British Columbia's unique advantages, such as Whistler's world class slopes."

In Gaining the Edge, the province calls for six priority products that will be central to the new BC Tourism strategy. One of the six is downhill skiing and snowboarding.

Taylor said if Whistler doesn't get the X Games, the money would simply go somewhere else.

"We understand that the times are tough with any government right now but we think there's a very sound case," said Taylor.

Also adding to Whistler's X Games case this week is the endorsement by the Canadian Snowsports Association (CSA). CSA is a federation representing ten snowsport member groups, including Alpine Canada and the Canadian Freestyle Association, whose mandate is the development of elite amateur athletes.

"It's a great step for us," said Taylor.

CSA managing director David Pym wrote this week: "The CSA Board believes that the concept of a ten-day festival, anchored by four days of international televised sports competition, will provide a significant amount of media exposure to our snow sports and will provide an opportunity to showcase many of our top athletes competing against top internationally recognized athletes.

"Finally, CSA recognizes that hosting such a multi-sport winter event with the participation of recognized international competitors would result in significant media and international exposure which is always beneficial to the sport."

Whistler is awaiting a decision from ESPN on the fate of its X Games bid next month.

There are nine finalists cities vying for three spots. Whistler is the only locale to bid on the Winter X Games.

The X Games currently run out of Aspen, Los Angeles and Tignes, France.

Alison Taylor reports for The Pique, the Whistler-based newsmagazine where a version of this story first appeared.

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