Westerner wants $1.5M for Centrium expansion

Westerner Park is looking for $1 million from the City of Red Deer to add 1,000 seats and 14 luxury boxes to the Centrium. The park’s board also hopes to tap Red Deer County for $500,000 to help leverage $1.75 million in provincial funding.

Westerner Park is looking for $1 million from the City of Red Deer to add 1,000 seats and 14 luxury boxes to the Centrium.

The park’s board also hopes to tap Red Deer County for $500,000 to help leverage $1.75 million in provincial funding.

Westerner Park CEO and general manager John Harms said the extra seats would boost the facility’s efforts to land big events like the Labatt’s Brier and Canadian Hockey League’s Memorial Cup.

It was the prospect of landing the Memorial Cup that pushed the arena project to the head of Westerner Park’s list, ahead of a plan to add a new exhibition hall, he said.

Red Deer Rebels president and owner Brent Sutter announced in March the team would bid on the 2013 tournament. The league is expected to decide this fall.

Boosting seating capacity would also improve prospects for landing bigger concerts and other events and would give Westerner Park a revenue boost.

“We know it would get the attention of other promoters who are looking for that size venue,” he said. “There are events that have passed us over because the numbers just aren’t there for what they’d have to charge for ticket prices to make a 6,000-seat venue pay.”

The total cost of the project will be $3.5 million to $4 million. Westerner Park would cover the amount not covered by provincial and municipal contributions.

Harms said lining up municipal support will likely help with the provincial funding decision, hoped for by the end of the month. Red Deer city council will review the funding request at its meeting on Monday.

If funding comes together, design work can get underway and tenders issued by late this year or early 2012. The addition will take about six months to build and the goal is to have it done by the time the Rebels take to the ice for the beginning of the 2012-13 season.

The Centrium now holds about 6,000 seats and has 18 luxury suites. The building was designed to be expanded by up to 4,000 seats, 2,000 in each of the east and west ends. Under the proposed configuration, 1,000 seats would be added at the west end with the luxury suites in lieu of regular seating. Luxury suites have proven popular and there is already a waiting list for new boxes.

In a report to council, city manager Craig Curtis recommends approving the $1 million request. Curtis suggests the money be offered on condition that provincial cash is lined up.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com