Edmonton EXPO 2017 – Preparing a National Bid

Last night I attended an information session at City Hall on Edmonton’s bid for EXPO 2017. The purpose of the event was to provide information to potential volunteers, but they also covered quite a bit of background information on just what EXPO (or the World’s Fair) is all about (check out the Wikipedia article for more information). After the World Cup and the Olympics, EXPO is the world’s third largest event in terms of economic and cultural impact. There are two kinds of expositions – “registered” (larger) and “recognized” (smaller). Edmonton is pursuing a bid for a Recognized Exposition.

edmonton expo 2017

Last fall, a citizen committee of 40 “community and business leaders” completed a high-level assessment of a potential bid. A preliminary survey of 300 residents found that 85% support an Edmonton bid. On October 23rd, the committee submitted a report to Council which unanimously concluded that Edmonton should seriously consider making a bid for the event.

Of course, this idea has been in the works for far longer than just a few months. Councillor Jane Batty attended EXPO 2008 in Zaragoza, Spain over the summer and met with a number of key individuals and organizations. Zaragoza is similar to Edmonton in a lot of ways – both cities have roughly the same population (Edmonton is a bit larger), both have a river running through the city, and both have strong economies. There are differences, of course – Edmonton is just over 100 years old while Zaragoza is 2000 years old!

Why does Edmonton want to host EXPO 2017? There are a number of benefits, including:

  • Facilitating international trade and business opportunities
  • Encouraging urban renewal
  • Generating goodwill and community pride
  • Showcasing Edmonton on the world stage
  • Creating a lasting legacy of infrastructure, research, and scientific knowledge and education

And there are financial benefits too. Current estimates suggest a return of $1.12 to $1.15 for every $1.00 invested, and this excludes any legacy benefits. Here are a few more numbers:

  • Taking into account population estimates for 2017, roughly 4.7 million visits would be expected
  • That translates into about 52,000 people on the site each day (for comparison, the average daily attendance of CapitalEX is about 77,000)
  • The cost of similarly sized EXPOs ranges from $1.6 billion to $3 billion (in 2008 figures)
  • A rough guess at the cost for Edmonton EXPO 2017 is $2.3 billion

I think Edmonton has a fairly good chance of being successful with this bid. The last time EXPO was in North America was EXPO ‘86 in Vancouver, and the next few are all in Asia and Europe as well. The year 2017 happens to be the 150th anniversary of Canada, so that’s definitely going to help our chances too.

Here’s the rough timeline for Edmonton’s bid:

Phase 1 – Fall 2007 to Fall 2008: Approve conceptual study
Phase 2 – Fall 2008 to Fall 2009: Develop national bid and submit to Canadian Heritage
Phase 3 – Fall 2009 to Spring 2011: Edmonton selected as Canada’s candidate, develop international bid
Phase 4 – Spring 2011 to Fall 2012: Submit bid to BIE, Edmonton selected to host EXPO 2017
Phase 5 – Fall 2012 to Spring 2017: Prepare to host EXPO 2017

There’s a lot of work to be done before we get to that point, however.

Edmonton EXPO 2017Edmonton EXPO 2017

The next step is to prepare a national bid for consideration by the federal government. Volunteers are needed for four committees: theme development, site and infrastructure planning, community engagement, and sponsorship. Each committee will be comprised of up to 15 members who will meet six times throughout the year, so the time commitment is definitely reasonable.

Obviously I took the photo above before everyone arrived, but it didn’t really fill up. I’d guess there were about 20 people in attendance, much smaller than I expected. I hope they get the required number of volunteers to progress things! I’m going to apply to join the community engagement committee.

The deadline to apply is January 23rd at 4:30pm. You can download the application package in either PDF or Word formats. Enthusiasm is perhaps more important than relevant skills or experience, so if you’re interested in bringing EXPO to Edmonton, consider joining one of the committees!