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UPDATE: Outgames scaled back

Other applicants "better met" 125 grant criteria

"We've had to trim some of the events; we've had to make some of the productions a little bit smaller," says Outgames chair John Boychuk (right, with treasurer Dan Quon). Credit: Natasha Barsotti photo

Jan 25, 4:49pm

A City of Vancouver spokesperson says the Outgames didn’t receive funding from its 125th Anniversary Grant program because other applicants “better met the program’s criteria.”

 Margeret Specht, the city’s director of grants, awards and support programs in cultural services, says it was “an extremely competitive round,” with the city receiving more applications than anticipated.

Specht says the Outgames requested $100,000 but “never would have received” that amount because there wouldn’t have been enough money to go around.

If the city had given the Outgames that sum, other organizations that better met the criteria wouldn’t have been supported, she contends.

The largest award granted was $50,000.

“There’s limited funds and limited resources to support organizations,” Specht adds.

Sixty-two organizations out of the 150 that applied in the first round received support, she reveals.

Those 62 “make a case for meeting the basic criteria,” Specht says.

Out on Screen’s Queer History Project and the queer theatre group Screaming Weenies were among the 62 successful applicants, which competed for just over $911,000 in that round.

“Both of those come with a very specific and direct representation from the gay community, so it has just to do with the level of how it meets the criteria,” Specht says.

Asked what the main qualifying criteria are, Specht referred Xtra to the city’s website, saying they are laid out there “more clearly and more articulately.”

“The program will provide grants to not-for-profit organizations to commission and create works, to produce or present events or exhibits, to host one-time conferences or symposia, or to devise and implement anniversary legacy projects,” the city’s website states under its 125th Anniversary large-scale grants category.

The list of program objectives includes support of “a range of arts, culture, heritage and civically focused activities which create excitement, pride and enthusiasm for the City’s 125th anniversary” as well as “celebrate the creativity of diverse communities in a way that meaningfully represents Vancouver’s current demographics.”

The grant program also aims to “maximize opportunities for neighbours to celebrate in all of Vancouver’s geographic neighbourhoods and distinct cultural communities,” the website states.

The city will accept a second round of applications until the end of February with another $650,000 up for grabs, Specht says.

“When groups aren’t successful and there is another round for them to have an opportunity, we will work with them and help them understand where they could have improved their application to be more competitive,” Specht says. “But again, I have to say, it’s a very competitive process,” she adds.

Specht says she met with Outgames chair John Boychuk before the first round but not since then. She says she has no idea how many people have so far applied in the second round.   

Jan 21, 2011

With the Outgames only six months away, Vancouver organizers are trimming their budget, searching for funds and cutting registration fees in an effort to keep the books balanced.

The original $2.9 million budget for this summer’s event has been slashed by $400,000, Outgames chair John Boychuk told Xtra after a Jan 19 board meeting.

Organizers also cut registration fees by almost half after interested athletes expressed concerns about affordability.

“It’s [now] as low as $75, plus $25 a sport, or as high as $75 plus $300 for a sport,” Boychuk says.

“As soon as we did that, we saw almost a doubling of the number of registrations,” he said, adding that organizers had to figure out how to inspire potential participants to sign up.

Boychuk couldn’t report how many athletes have committed to attending, saying that he hadn’t checked the latest tally.

Original estimates forecast 4,000 to 6,000 athletes and up to 150,000 spectators.

“We’ve had 20 percent of our enquiries come from outside North America, so there will be representation from Europe, from Asia, from the South Pacific and Central America as well,” he noted.

As for support from various levels of government, there seems to be an attitude of hurry up and wait.

Boychuk said the City of Vancouver has allocated funds, but “we’re just going through all the motions to show where the Outgames are. There’s been no cheque cut at this point.”

The original allocation was $100,000 from the city’s sport fund — “a commitment that was made almost a year ago,” Boychuk said.

Vancouver Park Board spokesperson Joyce Courtney confirms the city conditionally approved a $100,000 Sport Hosting grant to the Outgames in March 2010. Approval was subject to event organizers submitting a more detailed budget and event plan, she says.

The Park Board did receive most of that information, which will be reviewed with Outgames officials by the end of the week, Courtney adds. “Assuming everything is fine, the $100,000 grant would be disbursed.”

Meanwhile, Boychuk said Outgames organizers also applied for, but were denied, funds from the city’s 125th Anniversary Grants Program.

The program is “intended to foster awareness and understanding of Vancouver’s identities, first nations’ heritage and cultural diversity” as well as “support community-focused activities that enrich our society through civic engagement and celebration through art, culture and heritage,” the city’s website states.

Boychuk said the Outgames couldn’t compete with the numerous other applicants, but he’s reworking the application for a second try in February.

Xtra’s calls to the Vancouver 125 grant co-ordinator were not returned before posting time.

City hall plans to launch the Outgames as it launches Pride Week on July 25, with a declaration in council chamber, a reception and an official flag-raising ceremony.

The city’s gay advisory committee co-chair says council seems very supportive, even as it gears up to celebrate Vancouver’s 125th anniversary and prepare for civic elections later in the year.

“I know John is waiting for answers from them on a couple questions,” Ryan Clayton says. “We’ll see how supportive they are and how quickly they answer those questions.”

Asked if the province was approached for support through the Sports and Arts Legacy Fund, Boychuk says the province doesn’t feel the Outgames’ sport or cultural programming “fits with the requirements” because the event involves friendly, not accredited, sport.

In a Jan 20 email, a spokesperson for the ministry of community, sport and cultural development told Xtra an Outgames funding request was received and is “now under consideration.”

“The Province has designated a portion of the Sport Legacy to support the hosting of large-scale sporting events by BC communities,” the email stated, adding the Outgames “would qualify as a large-scale sporting event.”

Boychuk says he was told the province has no money, and that as far as he knows the only portion of the Outgames eligible for support is its three-day human rights conference.

“The province has put in over a million dollars to attract the Grey Cup here; they put in over a million bucks to bring the Junos here,” NDP MLA and tourism, arts and culture critic Spencer Chandra Herbert says.

“It seems to make sense to me, just from a tourism perspective, that we’d be able to support [the Outgames] just as we did the Police and Fire Games, which got quite a good chunk of support, both municipally and provincially,” he contends.

Despite earlier talk about taking advantage of 2010 Winter Olympic infrastructure, Boychuk now says the cost of using those venues is prohibitive. He notes an $8,000-a-day tab is the asking price to rent Richmond’s Olympic Oval.

He is now planning to stage Outgames events in community centres and other older facilities around the Lower Mainland.

“We’ve had to trim some of the events; we’ve had to make some of the productions a little bit smaller,” he admits.

Sponsorship packages were also cut in half to attract more sponsors, Boychuk adds.

Boychuk acknowledges that awareness of the Outgames is not high, saying the main focus last year was to woo people to come to Vancouver. The plan over the next couple of weeks is to let people know how they can get involved, he says.

Outgames organizers are coordinating a series of OUTmingling socials in various cities in the US and Canada to inform people about how they can participate in, volunteer or sponsor the games, Boychuk says.

“It’s a concern of mine,” Chandra Herbert says of the level of awareness. “They’re doing work to reach out to athletes from around the world, but I think they need to do more to let the community into the process in a bigger way.”

For his part, Clayton says he’s waiting like everyone else to see what happens.

“I haven’t seen a huge amount of outreach,” he adds. “Hopefully, they’re on the ball on that and they’re going to be starting that.

“Considering how soon it’s going to be, it’d be great to start getting the hype going, simply because that’s going to get their support going.”