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Westerner Park expecting big things in 2013

Westerner Park is anticipating 2013 to be a year of significantly higher revenues thanks to larger entertainment acts coming to an expanded Centrium.

Outgoing president Michael Donlevy spoke to about 55 members at the annual general meeting on Wednesday, saying that Westerner Park was taking on an ambitious budget to do some big things next year.

Revenues are expected to rise to about $7.5 million next year, up from $7.2 million.

“We’ve grown to a $45-million a year operation,” said Donlevy.

A net return invested back into the Westerner is projected at about $750,000. That’s a significant increase over last year, said Donlevy. Westerner Days Fair and Exposition, which experienced record-breaking attendance in 2012, will unveil some interesting announcements in the months to come.

The Centrium’s expansion will be finished by the end of this month and includes 1,000 new spectator seats to make it into a 7,000-seat arena. The upgrade also includes 13 more luxury suites and a 40-seat club suite.

“It’s now achieving what we thought it would,” said Donlevy.

Larger acts, like Tragically Hip and Billy Talent, are coming to town.

“We think now the venue — Westerner Park, Centrium, Agri-Trade fair, the (Westerner) fair — are really strong contenders to help support this region,” said Donlevy.

Donlevy also told the crowd that Westerner Park has to meet the needs of its customers, particularly as its clientele are becoming more urbanized.

Westerner Park will be looking at ways to improve services, such as seeing whether food options at Red Deer Rebels hockey games are meeting people’s expectations.

Technological advancements must be considered. The entire venue needs full wireless conference technologies.

“Most significantly trade shows and exhibitions need to have all the technology they need in order for us to provide true technology and conference space,” said Donlevy. “That’s going to be a significant expenditure we’ll have to commit to in the next couple of years.”

Westerner Park also wants to be at the table with the City of Red Deer, Red Deer County, Red Deer College and the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce in developing a comprehensive strategy for branding the region.

“Over the years, I’ve heard from various community leaders the term, ‘best kept secret’. Red Deer needs to develop a strong brand and narrative so that we’re no longer Alberta’s best kept secret.”

Westerner Park should be part of the conversations since it contributes $150 million a year into the region’s economy, Donlevy said.

Westerner Park members also elected several people to the board and approved appointees, including city councillors Frank Wong and Cindy Jefferies and Red Deer County councillor George Gehrke. A new president will be appointed from within the board at the January meeting. Vice-president Kent Olson has let his name stand for that role.



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