City council grants a million for Centrium expansion

Red Deer City council voted unanimously Monday to give Westerner Park $1 million to expand seating and luxury suites at the Centrium.

With the generous City support Westerner Park now hopes to leverage $1.75 million from the province and an additional $500,000 from Red Deer County.

Michael Donlevy, Westerner Park board president, says the proposal will add 1,000 extra seats and 14 luxury suites and the upgrades will improve their chances of attracting bigger concerts and major events like the Memorial Cup and Tim Horton’s Brier.

“We’re certainly very pleased. This is a real strong statement of support by the City for the Westerner, for the Central Alberta region and, frankly, underscores the community’s commitment to the Rebels (and a Memorial Cup bid for 2013),” he said.

“The economic impact is significant. (Getting) the Memorial Cup, if we’re successful, combined with the Brier, has been proven to be worth about $35 million dollars in direct economic impact. So the City’s investment today will be returned 35 times over.”

Donlevy said there is already a waiting list of over 40 local companies for the new luxury boxes and there is a proposal to rent out two of the boxes for community groups and events. Construction is planned to be completed in time for the 2012 – 2013 Rebels season. He added that Westerner Park already contributes about $150 million annually to the local economy as it is and this can only make things better.

Members of City council were strongly supportive of the grant. Councillor Lynne Mulder says, “This is just a continuation of a planning process. Now we’re at a point where we are able to expand it (the Centrium) and we can leverage money from the province, as we did before.

“I believe the payoff is in what we can attract to the City (with the expansion), the concerts we can attract, not to mention the Memorial Cup. It’s a great economic boon to our community, it’s great for our tourism. We will get the money back to our city many fold.”

“It will come back (to the City) as tax revenue,” said Councillor Tara Veer, while Councillor Buck Buchanan said improving the Centrium is, “A quality of life feature for Red Deer.”

Councillor Chris Stephan supported the grant for the betterment of the community.

Council also voted unanimously to give $100,000 to the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the national championship of the Canadian Curling Association, planned for Feb. 18 – 26, 2012 at Westerner Park.

“This is fantastic news,” says Sherri Ryckman, chair of the local Scotties Tournament of Hearts group. Spinoff from the event for the Red Deer economy will be at a minimum of a million dollars a day, if not more.

“It’s great for our community.”

She says tickets for the national event are selling well and they have over 450 volunteers signed up. There’s even a waiting list for more volunteers.