$77M Lethbridge conference facility struggling solely months after opening

The Lethbridge and District Exhibition wants $6.7 million to maintain the brand new facility operating

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Simply months after the opening of a $77.3-million agri-food hub in Lethbridge, the group that operates it has requested that metropolis’s council for a monetary lifeline to maintain the ability operating.

The 268,000-square-foot Agri-food Hub and Commerce Centre, which opened in August, value virtually $7 million greater than initially budgeted. It options banquet salons, 4 assembly rooms and outside patio areas, and is operated by the Lethbridge and District Exhibition on city-owned land.

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On Tuesday, Lethbridge’s council authorized a one-year deferral of mortgage funds owed to town at a price of $1.16 million, however that will solely be supplied to the Lethbridge and District Exhibition if the Alberta authorities agrees to pony up roughly $920,000 towards the $2.08-million capital grant request. Lethbridge’s council needs to know the province’s reply earlier than Dec. 11, someday earlier than council’s subsequent assembly.

“The Metropolis of Lethbridge is totally supportive of the Agri-food Hub and Commerce Centre and its success,” mentioned Coun. Rajko Dodic. “However we additionally should be good stewards of the restricted funds we’ve got to help our group. All the funding companions made choices to help this undertaking based mostly on the knowledge that they had on the time, and now all of us have to work collectively to discover a profitable path ahead.”

Council’s authorized movement got here after the exhibition’s CEO, Mike Warkentin, had requested council for $6.7 million so the group may proceed to run the brand new facility. Warkentin had instructed council that inflation, rates of interest, provide chain points and after-effects from the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the exhibition’s present monetary scenario. The exhibition’s reserves have been depleted by having to keep up outdated pavilions on the positioning.

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Lethbridge council additionally agreed Tuesday to offer as much as $500,000 in interim working funding to keep up these outdated pavilions and transfer forward with a third-party evaluate of the brand new facility’s operations.

With out further funding, the Lethbridge and District Exhibition could be in a “crucial monetary scenario,” Warkentin instructed council Tuesday.

“We might be in a spot the place we must take a look at a really restricted variety of choices for the longer term sustainability of our group,” he warned.

The funding request comes simply months after the ability, which had been within the making for greater than 20 years, formally opened to the general public. The Aug. 10 celebrations included a morning pipe providing, and a day ribbon reducing and grand opening ceremony. Federal, provincial, municipal and Blackfoot Confederacy representatives had been in attendance, becoming a member of Lethbridge and District Exhibition management for what was known as the “starting of a brand new period” for Lethbridge and southern Alberta.

In response to the exhibition’s web site, the ability is “anticipated to contribute greater than $90 million yearly to the regional economic system and function an financial driver of progress for Alberta’s agriculture, agri-food and tourism sectors.”

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In a press release when the ability opened, Premier Danielle Smith mentioned the Agri-food Hub and Commerce Centre honours agriculture, which she known as the “spine” of Alberta.

Along with offering area in the neighborhood to have fun the historical past of agriculture, it is going to allow further tourism alternatives and contribute to financial progress within the space,” mentioned Smith. “This new facility will positively affect so many facets of life in southern Alberta and I’m glad that our authorities may play a task in constructing it.”

The Alberta authorities, then beneath former premier Jason Kenney, contributed $27.8 million towards development of the ability. The Metropolis of Lethbridge supplied $25 million, the federal authorities $3.5 million and Lethbridge County $2 million, with the Lethbridge and District Exhibition getting a city-backed, 30-year mortgage of $17.8 million.

In an emailed assertion Friday to Postmedia, the Alberta authorities’s Workplace of Treasury Board and Finance didn’t tackle the particular funding request from Lethbridge’s council, saying the province is at the moment planning the 2024 finances and accepting submissions from municipalities, associations and different organizations.

All enter obtained might be a part of our general concerns as we construct a finances that addresses each our present and future fiscal wants, and maintains our dedication to accountable fiscal administration,” mentioned a spokeswoman.

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