Westerner Park

As a hub for central Albertans to gather and celebrate community events, Westerner Park is a non-profit organization and agriculture society that serves the community in a number of ways. Westerner Park is home to concerts and trades shows, weddings and banquets, hockey games, agricultural and community events.
Westerner Park building- Centrium

While the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, Red Deer City Council is also focused on the continuing financial challenges at Westerner Park, which is now amplified by the growing economic impacts of the pandemic. Financial challenges at Westerner Park resulted in a request for support with The City of Red Deer assuming temporary financial oversight of Westerner Park in an effort to ensure the short, medium and long-term success of the organization.

As a hub for central Albertans to gather and celebrate community events, Westerner Park is a non-profit organization and agriculture society that serves the community in a number of ways. From concerts and trades shows, weddings and banquets, hockey games and agricultural events, Westerner Park drives over $150 million of regional economic activity. At this time, the organization is further impacted by the restrictions of events, including sporting events, festivals and mass gatherings.  

Updates / News

Q & A Backgrounder

Who is Westerner Park?

Since 1891, Westerner Park has been a place for Central Albertans to gather and celebrate community events. Westerner Park is a community minded non-profit organization and agriculture society that plays host to an estimated 1.5 million visitors annually. From weddings, to banquets to hockey games and agriculture shows, Westerner Park is a community hub in Red Deer and central Alberta.

What led to the financial and operating instability at Westerner Park?

A number of factors ultimately led to the financial instability at Westerner Park, including the decision to expand the facility, major event contract negotiations and the current economic reality, to name a few. The additional impacts of COVID-19 are placing greater financial pressures on Westerner Park.

How long has Westerner Park known about this instability?

Westerner Park has only recently come to fully understand the complexity of the financial issues of the organization. However Westerner Park has been implementing cost adjusting measures since November.

What is The City of Red Deer’s role in this situation?

The City of Red Deer is assuming temporary financial oversight for Westerner Park as we navigate the current challenges. In addition, The City owns the land at Westerner Park, which it rents to Westerner Park under a 50 year lease; The City is a funding partner in many of the expansions at the Centrium; The City and Westerner Park work together to ensure the long term strategic plans for Westerner Park align with both parties’ plans for the future.

Our shared goal is financial and operating stability with Westerner Park continuing to serve as our community hub for events that are pivotal to our community life and economic development in our city.

How long will The City assume financial oversight?

The City will continue to maintain oversight until it is certain of financial stability.

What steps has The City undertaken regarding the continued operation of Westerner Park?

Through its financial oversight, City Administration has been working with Westerner Park administration in providing financial direction and operational support to stabilize operations and allow time for The City to consider longer term options.

  • Between December 2019 and April 2020, the following occurred:
  • In December 2019, Westerner Park informed The City of its fiscal challenges and reached out to The City for assistance. 
  • Effective January 28, 2020, The City assumed financial oversight of Westerner Park
  • Following the guidelines from Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, all events were cancelled by Westerner Park after March 12, 2020.
  • On April 24, following the guidelines set out by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Westerner Park cancelled Westerner Days for 2020.
What decisions does The City need to make in the next two months?

The City will need to make decisions related to Westerner Park’s financial and operational matters as well as The City’s legal relationship with Westerner Park. The following decisions will need to be made and actions taken in the next two months:

  • Short and long term support of Westerner Park to address the operating deficit and the capital debt load. Depending on the type of support, Council will need to pass appropriate bylaws or other financial instruments by the end of May.
  • A review of The City of Red Deer and Westerner Park’s legal relationship.
  • The City is in the process of contracting forensic and operational auditors to complete an in depth look at Westerner Park’s financial and operating situation. These were temporarily put on hold as The City worked on its pandemic response. 
  • By the end of May, City Council will need to make decisions on Westerner Park’s cash flow.
Will currently scheduled events continue to occur?

As a result of COVID-19, all events with more than 15 people have been cancelled across the province throughout the summer months. More direction on event resumption will come from Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Is Westerner Park eligible for any of the Federal and Provincial financial relief programs related to COVID-19?

Westerner Park has applied for financial support through these programs and is waiting for a decision.

What does the current staffing look like at Westerner Park?

Westerner Park had originally adjusted staffing in January related to their financial position and has had to further adjust staffing as a result of COVID-19.

Will this financial support have a tax impact?

At this time, we do not know whether any financial support will have tax impacts, or not. Currently, we are working to understand the financial details including an in-depth audit.

Has there been any inappropriate conduct at the Westerner that has led to this situation?

At this time, The City of Red Deer and Westerner Park are not aware of any. However, in an effort to be fully diligent and transparent, The City of Red Deer will commission third party forensic and operational audits to rule out concerns of this nature.

What is Westerner Park’s annual budget?

Westerner Park is a non-profit organization with an average annual budget of approximately $14 to 15 million.

Who runs Westerner Park?

Westerner Park is led by a Board of Directors who continues to provide overall direction to Westerner Park with support and oversight from The City of Red Deer as it relates to financial decisions and approval of Westerner Park’s annual budget.