Lacombe County defers decision on college cash request

Red Deer College made a pitch to Lacombe County on Thursday for $1.275 million for the proposed Health, Wellness and Sport Centre.

Red Deer College made a pitch to Lacombe County on Thursday for $1.275 million for the proposed Health, Wellness and Sport Centre.

The contribution towards the $88-million facility is based on the $115 per capita standard set by the City of Red Deer, which has pledged $11.5 million to the project.

County councillors did not make a decision on the request, deferring it to staff for a report and recommendation that will come to a future meeting.

College president Joel Ward said the facility is seen as key piece of the college’s ambition to become a polytechnic university with degree-granting power.

The facility is being sold as much more than an athletic centre. It is meant as a community resource offering preventative health initiatives aimed at all segments of the population, including youngsters and seniors.

Expected to be ready for the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, the facility is about the day after the games, he said.

“The games is two weeks. This is for 50 years to serve Central Albertans.”

Ward said a winning design will be chosen on July 13. In September, a major fundraising campaign will be launched, kicked off by the announcement of the biggest philanthropic donation in the college’s history. The previous record donation of its kind was $3.5 million.

Ward said about $50 million has been committed so far to the project and the federal government and Western Economic Diversification Canada will also be tapped for funding.

Other municipalities and potential partners are being approached in Central Alberta, to support what is seen as a regional polytechnic university, not just a Red Deer institution.

Red Deer County was approached for a $5-million donation in March, although the request was later reduced by the college to $2.3 million. However, college officials walked away with only a $500,000 commitment following a special county public hearing on the issue.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com