Pemberton can’t wait to develop plan for 2010: Blundell 

Councillor travels to site of the 2002 Olympic Games to help village formulate its Games plan.

Pemberton councillor Mark Blundell is convinced that his town can get lasting legacies from the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and showcase itself during the event.

He is even more convinced of that after a trip this week to Heber, Utah, near the venue site of the 2002 Olympic Nordic events.

"It is just incredible how positive these people are and how enthusiastic they are," said Blundell who represents the village of Pemberton on its Olympic committee and is the president of the local Chamber of Commerce.

"It was really inspiring to see what they accomplished."

Indeed, at the time of the Salt Lake 2002 Winter Olympics Heber was the little town that could.

The Heber townspeople got together and convinced the Salt Lake Organizing Committee that Soldier Hollow was the best site for Nordic events. When SLOC ran out of money the community raised $100,000 US for the entrance plaza to the venue site.

When Heber was told hosting nightly entertainment was a waste of time and money it took its chances anyway and hosted a Wild West round up every night for 12 nights. It was sold out every night.

They also sold 5,000 cowboy hats and one location alone sold 100,000 pins.

The community, led by the Chamber of Commerce, also lobbied for the resurrection of an old steam locomotive to take people from the venue site to Heber and back. SLOC said the idea was off the rails but Heber went ahead and it turned out to one of the best attractions of the Games.

It was these successes, and the town’s similarities to Pemberton, which drew Blundell and Chamber of Commerce acting vice-chair Paul Selina to the Utah town of 6,000.

"Heber is a super place and it is very similar to Pemberton in many ways," said Selina.

"It was like looking in a mirror. I don’t think we could have targeted a better community that was closer in size and infrastructure to what we expect Pemberton to be in 2010."

Said Blundell:"(Heber had) all of the unique things a small town like Pemberton has and they utilized their resources in a good way to piggy-back on the Olympics."

Like Pemberton Heber is a rural community with a Wild West feel to it.

It also had a similar sized airport to Pemberton’s until it decided to expand it – a decision, said Blundell, that benefited the whole area.

One big difference between the two towns though is that Heber was a venue site whereas Pemberton won’t be hosting any events.

However, Blundell said there is discussion about attracting biathlon athletes in the years leading up the 2010 Games to practice in Pemberton facilities.

Blundell said several things became crystal clear as the trip unfolded.

Pemberton can’t wait to formulate a plan for success – it has to start the work now. And in all likelihood the local Chamber of Commerce and downtown merchants’ association must play a key role in developing that strategy.

Plans must look at how the town can attract those in Whistler to Pemberton for activities during the Games.

They must also cater to those who will be travelling to Whistler via the Duffey Lake Road and those who might use the airport facility such as security forces and the media.

"If we can cater to those then that will bring a lot of people into Pemberton as well as those coming up the Duffy and that offers a lot of opportunity," said Selina.

"We need to look at how to provide for those people rather than them passing us by and go on to Whistler."

And, said Blundell, all those drivers will need somewhere to park, as they won’t be able to park in Whistler. Why not let them park in Pemberton, entertain them while they are there and then shuttle them to Whistler.

"Maybe we could have a train that went from Whistler to Pemberton once a night and back so that we could have people come to our events," said Blundell.

"The world is going to be looking at us so I think Pemberton will really have the chance to showcase itself in a positive way to the world and that is what we want to do.

"If anywhere can pull it off it would be Pemberton."

Said Selina: "This trip has lifted a lot of the fog and has given us a massive boost and a sense of direction that we didn’t have."

Blundell will be making a presentation about the trip to Pemberton council Feb. 3.

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