Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce wants city council to remember the importance of Westerner Park as it wrestles with how to address the facility’s financial problems.
On Thursday, the majority of city councillors voted to delay a decision surrounding financial support for Westerner Park pending further information from city administration.
Council put off approving a recommended $3-million grant and a $19-million loan to provide short and long-term stability.
“I’m a little perplexed about why another delay should be happening. It’s time to move forward,” said chamber CEO Rick More.
Council instead requested additional information concerning options around financial support, adjustments to the proposed Relationship Framework Agreement, board delegation, and outstanding responses to any questions submitted by councillors.
Administration will provide the information within four weeks.
More said an extensive financial review released last year laid out the guidelines for the Westerner’s success.
“After we get COVID behind us, the economic drive is going to be there. People have money saved. I think we will draw a lot more things going forward, new things.”
Annual activities like the Agri-Trade Equipment Expo, a joint venture between the chamber and Westerner Park, will also provide financial stability, he said.
“People look very forward to those three days. That’s a huge driver for this community,” said More about the trade show that generates $50 million in tourism spending alone.
City councillor Michael Dawe, who voted against the tabling motion on Thursday, agreed that Agri-Trade has been a phenomenal moneymaker.
“That in itself would be a huge boost not only to the financial health of the Westerner, and indirectly to the city, but also in terms of the community. You have people from all over Western Canada come to that event,” Dawe said.
He said while it’s difficult to say how a delay in addressing the Westerner’s finances could impact future events, the councillor said his nature is to worry.
“Whenever you have big deals, and this is a big deal, there’s lots of complications. And whenever things are really complicated, there’s lots that can go wrong.”
Dawe said he felt he had a good understanding of the finances on Thursday to make a well-informed decision.
“The financial issues are pretty immediate. The problem is not going to go away, and we’re not going to have an easier situation a month from now than we have today.”
Westerner Park first told the city about its financial struggles and asked for assistance in December 2019. The city, which owns the land Westerner Park is located on, leases it to the organization under a 50-year agreement.
In January 2020, the city assumed temporary oversight of Westerner Park and has since provided $4 million to support operations.