The continuing financial challenges at Westerner Park, are now amplified by the growing economic impacts of the pandemic, says the City of Red Deer.
On Monday, as part of the decision making process, city council will receive a legal briefing on matters related to Westerner Park.
Westerner Park, a non-profit organization and agriculture society, drives over $150 million of regional economic activity by hosting everything from weddings, concerts and hockey games for central Albertans.
Between December 2019 and April 2020, Westerner Park informed the city of its financial challenges, laid off staff and cancelled Westerner days for 2020.
Effective January 28, 2020, the city assumed financial oversight of Westerner Park
Through its financial oversight, city administration has been working with Westerner Park administration in providing financial direction and operational support to stabilize operations and allow time for the city to consider longer term options.
While currently scheduled events are postponed at this time, Westerner Park and the city continue to review contracts related to key major events that are slated to take place in the future.
A number of factors ultimately led to the financial instability at Westerner Park, including the decision to expand the facility, major event contract negotiations and the current economic reality, to name a few. Factoring in the impact of COVID-19, the city will need to make decisions related to Westerner Park’s financial and operational matters as well as the city’s legal relationship with Westerner Park.
The following decisions will need to be made and actions taken in the next two months:
Short and long term support of Westerner Park to address the operating deficit and the capital debt load. Depending on the type of support, council will need to pass appropriate bylaws or other financial instruments by the end of May.
A review of the City of Red Deer and Westerner Park’s legal relationship.
The city is in the process of contracting forensic and operational auditors to complete an in depth look at Westerner Park’s financial and operating situation. These were temporarily put on hold as the city worked on its pandemic response.
By the end of May, city council will need to make decisions on Westerner Park’s cash flow.