Westerner Park recently revealed an update to their 2008 Land Use Master Plan that may include up to $180 million in improvements to the site.
“We have done a revision of the next 10 years and what that site development looks like,” Westerner Park CEO Ben Antifaiff said. “We are going to introduce those concepts today.”
The concepts outlined key initiatives including the $15 million Exhibition Hall which recently broke ground; a potential $26 million convention centre; a potential $17 million galleria; a potential $46 million new hotel; a potential $25 million twin arena complex; potentially $8 million worth of upgrades to the Centrium — which may include an expanded seating capacity of up to 8,500; and potentially an additional $15 million in upgrades to parking site services and other renovations.
Antifaiff said the plan outlines what the next 10 years at Westerner Park could look like and fundraising will carry on throughout the projects and will most likely include government grant money.
“It starts off with the current construction of the Exhibition Hall and envisions what future assets and venues we need at the park in order to meet our future development objectives,” Antifaiff said.
The hosting of the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) at Westerner Park will be aided with these new developments, however, Antifaiff said that current facilities are able to meet the needs of that event.
Instead, these developments will go towards key components of Westerner Park’s business model, including the expansion of agricultural programming.
“This land use update addresses that by the new Exhibition Hall and future facilities,” Antifaiff said.
Another aspect of Westerner Park’s business plan is the improvement of the Enmax Centrium, which is approaching 30 years of age.
“We have a few things to address in the Centrium in order to ensure its longevity,” Antifaiff said.
While much of the improvements needed at the Centrium include their HVAC system, concessions and cooling systems, there is the potential for the expansion of 7,000 to 8,500 seats to the venue which will host CFR and will continue to host the Red Deer Rebels Hockey Club.
Key to both the development of the Exhibition Hall and the potential Convention Centre is the ability to host large scale trade shows and conventions, with the Exhibition Hall, opening in February 2019 initially being able to offer catering for groups up to 2,000. The proposed convention centre would have the capacity to host many more.
“We would like to attract more larger trade shows and conventions to Central Alberta and right now there isn’t sufficient space for a 5,000 person trade show,” Antifaiff said.
Antifaiff was reluctant to reveal the events that are currently in discussion but he did say Westerner Park is looking into bidding into a couple large-scale events.
“In the next three to five years, you are going to see events that have never been in Central Alberta,” he said.
One thing Antifaiff was excited for was the Exhibition Hall’s ability to convert to a full-sized soccer pitch.
“There has been a tremendous amount of interest from Alberta Soccer about what they can bring to Central Alberta because of our location. It is ideal being in the middle of that north-south corridor,” Antifaiff said.
Antifaiff also outlined that the Land Use Master Plan also includes two options: one with the current racetracks and one without.
Currently, the racetracks do not generate much revenue outside of Westerner Days and their removal would lead to some significant changes including a large expansion of available parking on-site.
Antifaiff said part of the night’s meeting was looking for public feedback on the racetracks future.
In the immediate future, Central Albertans can watch out for the construction of the Exhibition Hall between the Stockmans Pavilion and the Agri-Centre, followed by many internal upgrades which will be planned around upcoming larger events.
“We hope not to have too much disruption to our guests during the next phase,” Antifaiff said.
He added the Convention Centre would be a larger disruption if it happens, but that won’t be happening for at least five to six years.