A 2012 project to add more seats to the Centrium needs to be followed by more facility expansions so Westerner Park isn’t forced to turn business away, said the board president.
Michael Donlevy, who was re-elected to the Westerner board at Wednesday’s annual general meeting, said the present trade and exhibition space can’t meet growing demand.
About 100 businesses are on a waiting list for booth space during the Agri-Trade show, for instance, said Donlevy.
“We’re not in a position, with Agri-Trade, that we can expand — we’re inside, we’re outside, we’re everywhere,” he added.
Early in 2012, the Westerner Park board plans to meeting with government representatives to stress the need for more trade and exhibition space.
The board is seeking 70,000 additional square feet, which would cost about $30 million to build. Donlevy said the board would look at paying for part of this out of revenues, but would need support from all levels of government.
Westerner Park also needs about 130,000 additional square feet of conference space, costing about $45 million.
Chief Executive officer John Harms said he’d love to get financing for both projects at once, but realistically, will probably have to look at doing it in two phases, with the extra trade space being the priority.
The subject has already been broached with government, but Westerner Park officials were previously told the tighter economy has led to less provincial spending. Donlevy believes it’s a matter of keeping the request on the government’s radar, and waiting for conditions to improve and purse strings to loosen.
He hopes the new facilities can be started within the next few years.
Meanwhile, Westerner Park will be expanding the Centrium by 1,000 seats and 14 luxury box suites next year. The project, which will be built directly above the main doors into the arena, is expected to be completed by the late fall of 2012.
Donlevy believes this $3.6 million expansion, financed by the province, Red Deer City, County, and Westerner Park revenues, will make the arena more marketable for a wider variety of events. He hopes to get more “A-level” acts such as comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who performed here in October.
Centrium revenues were down because fewer entertainers are touring while electricity costs have risen, but Westerner Park managed to finish 2011 with a net profit of $261,000, which is about the same as last year. In total, Westerner Park made about $6.4 million in gross revenues.
Donlevy called the 2011 Westerner Days, which brought in $1.6 million gross — or about $100,000 more than last year — a resounding success. He also said he’s looking forward to bringing in more special events, such as the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, a major curling championship that’s returning in February.