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New West isn’t ready to put brakes on 2022 Grand Prix quite yet

Pandemic restrictions and downtown construction could force cancellation of 2022 event
Cyclists raced through the downtown during the New West Grand Prix, whose fate is uncertain for 2022. File

Not so fast.

While provincial health orders regarding the pandemic and construction in downtown in New West could potentially derail the 2022 New West Grand Prix, city council isn’t quite ready to put the brakes on this year’s event.

On Monday, council received a report that included a recommendation directing staff to report back on the issue in the fall about opportunities to host future New West Grand Prix events. The staff report suggested the city can’t commit to a 2022 event because of uncertainty around COVID-19 public health orders and construction related to the Pattullo Bridge replacement project and Metro Vancouver’s sewer line project on Columbia Street.

Coun. Patrick Johnstone, however, said he’d prefer that city staff explore an alternate course location with Superweek Pro Cycling Week organizers to see if a different route would work.

“If we have an opportunity to hold a city event that brings the community together, I think I’d like to see us explore that and make sure we are not being too quick at moving away from an event like this,” he said.

Launched in 2017, cyclists from around the world took park in the New West Grand Prix, one of six events in the BC Superweek Pro Cycling Series. Other races are held in Delta, Gastown, Burnaby, Port Coquitlam and White Rock.

Johnstone said the series attracts talent from across North America, so they need to have some certainty about whether the event is going to take place in the various communities.

“I’d hate to think that Superweek could move forward, and only our event was the one that was not able to go forward; I’d hate to see that happen,” he said. “Because other communities are still making their decisions and considering whether to hold an event or not, I’d hate to see us be sort of the domino in other communities saying ‘the event can’t go on,’ and that be the reason why the entire week doesn’t go on if there’s not a public health reason or another reason for it not to go on.”

If possible, Johnstone said he’d like the city to do a little more work on the issue and put off making a decision about the fate of the event until February or March, at which time there may more certainty about pandemic issues and Superweek has more clarity about the other events.

“I guess what I am asking is council ask staff to explore alternate course locations if that is possible,” he said, “and maybe through discussions with Superweek and event partners to see if an alternate location would work and whether we can wait a little bit, just table this decision a little bit, until we get more information, to decide whether it is viable or not this year.”

The New West Grand Prix was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of provincial health orders regarding gatherings and events due to the pandemic.

According to a report to council, about 4,000 spectators were estimated to have attended the New West Grand Prix in 2017.

Renee Chadwick, the city’s manager of special projects and community partnerships, said staff have been in discussions with Superweek series organizers for about six months. She said no decision had been made at this time about events in other cities.

“They actually have been in this holding pattern since early fall,” she told council Monday. “As early as last week, many of them still have not made those decisions.”

As is the case with all events, Chadwick said it does take a bit of time with regards to planning. She said staff will talk to Superweek organizers about the other events and about the possibility of providing a different route in New West.

“When it was first looked at, we looked at that specific location for the downtown core,” she said. “We haven’t at this point explored other locations, which we will certainly do.”

Council approved a motion to have staff look at alternative locations and to examine what other communities are doing regarding the series.

“I know not every problem has a solution, but I would like to exhaust the possibilities of a solution before giving up on it,” said Coun. Jaimie McEvoy.

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus