Planning for the future of Grande Prairie’s downtown arena will work its way into the 2022 budget deliberations after the Community Services Committee meetings on Tuesday morning.
Catherine Ridgeway, the Events & Entertainment Manager at the City of Grande Prairie, presented the reasoning behind developing a business case for the facility.
“There have been two plans developed for Revolution Place, in the past,” Ridgeway said. “These plans were specifically focused on renovations at the current location.”
According to Ridgeway, concerns came up in 2002 and 2013 about restrictions and limitations on the current building.
“There were some major areas of concern,” she said. “(They were) mainly about access to parking, being adjacent to the railroad tracks, some operational issues that could be affected by renovations such as the utility corridor that runs along the west side of the building, the low ceiling height, the ice surface being located at ground level and, in the big picture, a lack of space to develop a true entertainment district.
“In the past, the city has considered renovations to Revolution Place and also the introduction of a new performing arts centre to the region. Both, incredibly enriching infrastructure projects that would positively affect the quality of life and livability of the city.”
The report Ridgeway presented to Grande Prairie Community Services Committee compared Grande Prairie to other Western Canadian cities including Lethbridge, Prince George, Brandon, Moose Jaw and Dawson Creek.
“The number of seats available at Revolution Place is well below the average of other like-sized cities in Western Canada,” Ridgeway said. “The average population is 55,000 residents and 5,406 seats. Grande Prairie is above this population average, yet we fall well below the average capacity with under 3,000 seats.
“In contrast, we are on par with capacity for performing arts centres in the region. An average large capacity venue in Western Canada is 554 seats, with the Grande Prairie Regional College having 508 seats in their facility. Although we are comparing the largest performing arts centre in each city, the majority of the cities have multiple facilities similar to Grande Prairie.”
Ridgeway said funding a detailed third-party business analysis would give council the information it needs to make an informed decision.
“From an administrative perspective, I would like to include in the business case an RFP (Request for Proposal) market assessment, which will be key to get a clear picture of the region’s current state post-pandemic and a needs assessment.
“Obviously, we want to determine the community’s needs and the capacity of the market, along with stake-holder and tenant needs. Most importantly, we want to look at benefits and risks. We want to include case studies of similar facilities, what their financial performance has been and the utilization rates.”
She added the plan could also look at prospective building materials, amenities offered, funding models, and an analysis of trends in the market and area.
Ridgeway also said the plan should include suggestions for using the current building, including the cost of converting it to a performing-arts facility, a suggested seating capacity, possible design elements, and an estimated cost.
The organization chosen to prepare the business case, forecast to cost $200,000, would then be available to council for questions and discussions.
Councillor Dylan Bressey asked if council what would follow the development of a business case.
“The next phase would be the design process,” Ridgeway said. “That would be about 10 per cent of the overall cost, and I think that acquiring land would be a big piece of the puzzle as well — the actual placement of the event centre.”
Bressey asked at what point would the city go out looking for partners to assist in the project, whether businesses, other levels of government, or even philanthropic giving.
“I would include that in the business case,” Ridgeway said. “I would like an in-depth look at funding models and what that could look like and what that looked like in other areas.”
Councillor Wade Pilat asked if council wanted to move on getting a business case developed sooner if there would be a funding source in the 2021 budget.
“There will be a report next month that will give you (council members) an update on our financial position from 2020, which will identify a small surplus,” Corporate Services Director Shane Bourke said, noting the only money currently available is in the future funding expenditure reserve.
A motion to look at the matter after the 2020 final update was passed unanimously.