Westerner Park CEO Mike Olesen says the first quarter of 2022 will be challenging, but the organizations is looking forward to having ‘more things on the horizon soon.’ (Advocate file photo)

Westerner Park CEO Mike Olesen says the first quarter of 2022 will be challenging, but the organizations is looking forward to having ‘more things on the horizon soon.’ (Advocate file photo)

First quarter of 2022 ‘still quite tenuous’ for Westerner Park, says CEO

Modified food and beverage serving option was introduced at Red Deer Rebels games earlier this month

It will take time for Westerner Park to return to normal, but there are reasons to be optimistic, says CEO Mike Olesen.

In December, the provincial government introduced restrictions that would prevent convention centres and arenas from selling food and beverages to patrons, in order to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Earlier this month, it was announced a modified food and beverage serving option would be available at Red Deer Rebels games played at the Peavey Mart Centrium.

Food and beverages are still not allowed in the arena bowl or concourse, but attendees can walk over to the Parkland Pavillion to drink and eat.

READ MORE: Modified food, beverage serving option to be offered at Red Deer Rebels games

“It’s at our core to be able to serve people and give them a chance to have a beer or a pop and popcorn while they’re enjoying a hockey game or concert,” Olesen said.

“We’re doing everything we can and you’ve got to get creative. I think we’ve pivoted well considering what the options are with (Alberta Health Services) and the province. But we are looking forward to getting back to actually operating in the way we’re intended.”

This is a signal that people are starting to feel “a little more safe,” Olesen said.

“But I think it’s going to take fans a while to be fully comfortable again, and to get those crowds back up to where they should be, especially with the Rebels team winning as much as they are,” he said.

While there are some events scheduled to take place at Westerner Park in the coming months, Olesen said patience is key for Westerner Park right now.

“This next quarter is still quite tenuous from an event point of view. A lot of the more major events are relatively apprehensive from a ticketing point of view and that’s absolutely being seen industry wide.

“We’ve had good chats with our friends down in Calgary and they’re experiencing the same thing – people aren’t really ready to commit yet for a number of reasons. There have been a lot of cancellations and refund processes are always more work than people would like to go through.”

Olesen added he is hopeful Westerner Park will be able to transition back to normal soon enough.

“For now we’re going to really focus on serving Rebels hockey as much as we can. Shortly we look forward to connecting with the community and letting them know what’s happening with Westerner Days.

READ MORE: 2021 Westerner Days in Red Deer cancelled

“We look forward to having more things on the horizon soon.”

Westerner Days was cancelled in 2021. In a normal year, the overall impact of the annual event is estimated in excess of $7 million, with approximately $5 million of that spent by visitors, exhibitors and contractors in Red Deer and area.



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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