Nearly a dozen Westerner Park events in the next month have been postponed or cancelled because of COVID-19.
It began last Friday after the Alberta government strongly recommended that no gatherings of 250 or more people be held.
The Taboo Naughty but Nice Show, which was scheduled to run last weekend; Red Deer Hospice’s A Night at the Races Gala on Saturday; last weekend’s Red Deer Spring Collector Car Auction and Speed Show, and Red Deer Rebel hockey games were among the first events affected.
Looking ahead, the Central Alberta Family Expo set for Saturday and Sunday, the Annual Home Education Convention (March 26 to 28), the central Alberta section of the Vintage Motorcycle Swap Meet on Sunday and the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast (April 16) are just a few of the events already postponed.
“The big focus right now is triaging all of our events and looking at how does this affect them as an organization and, obviously, assessing all events with respect to size,” said Westerner Park CEO Mike Olesen.
“Really, it’s a risk management exercise in terms of moving forward. At this point, we’re measuring events through April and into May as well.”
Another focus is ensuring staff remains healthy. And it’s not just physical health that can be affected by events as dramatic as a pandemic. Maintaining mental health is also important.
“The mental health well-being of our staff is definitely a primary concern, to make sure that people are handling this as well as they can.
“Because we’ve been under enough pressure as organization as it is, and this only compounds things.”
In January, Westerner Park had to lay off 14 full-time staff and about two dozen casual or part-time staffers, and the City of Red Deer assumed temporary financial oversight of the facility.
Westerner Park now employs about 60 full-time equivalent staff and another 150 are on the casual and part-time payrolls.
Olesen said his “primary goal is to maintain the staff as best as possible.”
“We’re just assessing everything we are facing, but we certainly still need to manage our expenses, given the significant loss of revenue (the event postponements) represent for us.”