Westerner Park’s CEO is looking forward to getting the financial support of the City of Red Deer to maintain the Westerner as an independent, non-profit organization.
Last week, city council put off approving a recommended $3-million grant and a $19-million loan to provide short and long-term stability to the Westerner.
“What we’ve maintained with the city is that we still want to be ultimately responsible for our debts. With that support in place, I’m confident that our models will allow us to have that paid off in the time that’s expected,” Mike Olesen said.
Westerner Park asked the city for financial assistance in late 2019, and in January 2020 the city assumed temporary oversight.
Olesen said as an independent, non-profit organization the Westerner has better access to grants, the continued benefit of volunteers, and the support of other municipalities.
“We were built by the community and that’s what it’s going to take for us to continue. That’s a big reason why we exist.”
Olesen was “pleased and confident” in the rebuilding of the organization since its financial crisis and during pandemic.
“We’re set up well for the future. We just need to make that final step. We look forward to that chance, and we’ll be patient as we find the right time for that to happen,” Olesen said about the wait for the city’s decision.
He said the plan for Westerner Park is to focus on self-producing more events instead of waiting for another city, or event manager, to bring events to the facility. For example, work has begun on incorporating a major agricultural show into Westerner Days in 2022. Partnerships are also being formed in the community to develop other events.
While pandemic restrictions will continue to restrict revenue earnings, it’s anticipated that Westerner Days will go ahead as an outdoor event this year, he said.
“The core (of activity) is at the Midway. It’s at Grub Hub. That will be probably our best time in terms to start earning revenue again.”
That will be followed by Rebels hockey and the CFR in the fall.
Olesen said Westerner Park will continue to work with Alberta Health Services as the facility transitions towards reopening. In the meantime, people are getting to see the new exhibition hall where AHS has set up its COVID-19 testing and immunization centre.
“It’s the best of a worst-case scenario that we are able to host a vaccine clinic. I’ve gone through the experience myself and I think they’ve done a really good job. The setup couldn’t be much more ideal.”