Westerner Park is hoping Red Deer County will chip in $1 million to upgrade the Centrium.
County council will review a request on Tuesday by Westerner Park to provide the cash in hopes of lining up a matching provincial $1 million grant. The money will go towards replacing the arena’s ice plant and climate control systems, which are 30 years old and nearing the end of their lifespans.
“These systems are critical for the efficient production of arena ice for multi-sport use and to control temperature and humidity for the various event types that occur in the Centrium,” says Westerner Park’s president and board chair Janice Wing and CEO Mike Olesen in the funding request to the county.
New equipment will be more energy efficient and can be located outside the building, freeing up space indoors.
The total cost of the project is estimated at $2.1 million. Westerner Park hopes to find other grants to cover the remaining $100,000.
The deadline to apply for the grant is June 15. While the county’s commitment is required by then, the grant could be paid in instalments over three years.
“The county’s continued support of Westerner Park and the contribution to this phase of the project would be a critical step in extending the life of this central Alberta pillar,” says Westerner Park. “The Centrium and the events we host are such an important component to our quality of life, and it will be key catalyst in our economic recovery.”
“These system upgrades are critical for what we host now, but also to ensure we can attract the next major national event that should come to our community.”
Westerner Park says that 11 per cent of tickets sold at the Centrium are purchased by Red Deer County residents and 30 per cent are from Red Deer. The rest are bought by people from outside those two municipalities, including by national and international visitors.
The Centrium accounts for about 70 per cent of Westerner Park’s economic activity. It is estimated Westerner Park and its many events create $100 million to the region’s economy.
The latest project is the second phase of a three-phase plan to upgrade and extend the life of the Centrium.
Last fall, the first phase, costing about $3 million was completed. Dressing rooms were updated, a new score clock installed, concourse railings added and the facility’s 30-year-old seating was replaced.
The upgrades were scheduled to be done in time for the world junior hockey championship, which was to take place in Red Deer and Edmonton from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2021.
Unfortunately, all games were played in Edmonton because of the pandemic. Edmonton and Red Deer are expected to share the tournament this winter.
The final phase of the Centrium upgrade will see the concessions redesigned, washrooms upgraded and other cosmetic improvements made as part of a $1.2 million project expected to be completed in summer 2022.
Westerner Park had been struggling financially after borrowing heavily to fund a new exhibition hall and then being hit hard by the pandemic. Red Deer city council voted last month to extend the exhibition, concert and convention site a $22 million lifeline, including a $3 million grant and a $19 million loan.