Red Deer city council enthusiastically supported a $1 million grant on Monday to go towards expanding Enmax Centrium seating, with several councillors calling it an investment in economic development.
Westerner Park hopes to use the unanimous show of support from council to leverage $1.75 million in provincial funding and $500,000 from Red Deer County.
The total cost of the project will be about $3.5 to $4 million, with Westerner Park picking up the share not covered by grants.
Westerner board president Michael Donlevy said the proposal to add 1,000 additional seats and 14 luxury boxes to the west end will create a facility better positioned to land significant events such as the Canadian Hockey League’s Memorial Cup and the Tim Hortons Brier.
Those two events alone could generate $35 million in economic spin-offs for host communities.
“So the city’s investment today will be returned 35 times over, just by that alone,” said Donlevy, shortly after council unanimously approved the funding request.
The Rebels have already announced they intend to bid on the 2013 Memorial Cup.
Boosting the seating from its current 6,000 seats and increasing the number of luxury boxes to 32 from 18 will turn the Centrium from what is a B-level venue for entertainment into an A-level facility, he said.
Westerner Park officials believe an upgraded facility could attract three to four more major concerts a year.
Adding luxury suites will also meet red-hot demand for the popular viewing areas. Forty-five to 50 businesses are already on a waiting list for luxury boxes. The plan is to set aside a couple of boxes that can be rented out to community groups for an evening.
If all goes to plan, the addition will be tendered late this year or early next year. Construction would take about six months and be completed before the Red Deer Rebels’ 2012-13 season.
Councillor Lynne Mulder said the city has been behind the Centrium since the beginning and the latest financial support is just a continuation of that commitment. The city has also showed similar support when the local curling club needed $1 million for its expansion project, she noted.
Councillor Chris Stephan said the benefits will extend beyond Westerner Park because it will attract more name events and drive economic development.
Bringing more events to Red Deer will spin off in more business for hotels and restaurants, said Councillor Paul Harris. That fits in with the county’s economic development strategy and will eventually lead to more tax revenues.