2019 Canada Winter Games chairwoman Lyn Radford announced on Friday that the Canada Games Celebration Plaza will be built outside the former Central Elementary School downtown. The school is also being renovated in a $7-million project.

Canada Games Celebration Plaza announced

Former Central Elementary School grounds will become Games gathering place

2019 Canada Games organizers are looking back to the future for their latest project.

Red Deer’s historic Central Elementary School will be extensively renovated and the Canada Games Celebration Plaza created out front.

“It’s so important that we think about our heritage when we’re moving forward,” said Lyn Radford at a Friday morning news conference outside the school at 5205 48th Ave.

“We can’t forget our past.”

The plaza will have room for crowds of 5,000 to 10,000 and is expected to be an integral part of the Games and a place for the public to connect with the competition in a great atmosphere.

The $1 million plaza will be the public centrepiece of the games, the scene of medal ceremonies, nightly concerts and other events.

Overlooking the plaza is the former Central Elementary School. Built in 1939, it is one of the city’s most significant historical buildings and will be completely renovated in a $7-million project.

Work has already begun on restoring the facade of the school that is home to Canada Games organizers. The interior will be overhauled and, following the Games, turned into a space for the city’s Culture Services department.

Mayor Tara Veer said the partnership between the city, the 2019 Canada Winter Games Host Society and Red Deer Public Schools was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to preserve a treasured piece of city heritage.

Without that team effort, preserving and restoring the school would have been cost-prohibitive, said Veer.

The city has big plans for the school. To boost its curb appeal, nearby power lines will be buried, sidewalks widened, street furniture added and landscaping undertaken.

“Not only does it preserve a heritage building, it revitalizes this section of the downtown,” said Veer.

The project will draw on funding from the city; sponsorships, including naming rights; heritage grants and other federal and provincial funding.

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