LETHBRIDGE: Early this fall, consultants will release findings on whether or not the Lethbridge Exhibition should move to a new location. It's another step forward in a discussion that began decades ago and came to a point with the formation of a joint committee between the exhibition and city four years ago. Exhibition manager Rudy Friesen says it can't happen fast enough.
"In terms of the work that we do and the services we provide in the community, yesterday would have been great," says Friesen with a twinkle of his hoped-for timeline for expansion. He says Whoop-Up Days is just another example of how the facility is bursting at the seams. The event takes up all 63 acres on the property, and though there's an appetite in the community to do more and bring in bigger acts, Friesen says the capacity just isn't there.
"We see firsthand on a daily basis the events, activities and attractions that do not come to this community because we don't have the facilities for them," says Friesen. Today, the exhibition makes roughly $3.4 million in gross, non-grant revenue for the community each year. Similar-sized Red Deer makes about four times that, pulling in an estimated $12.6 million.
But even with stats like these in front of him, Friesen adds it's no reason to rush the planning process. "If this is only happening every 70 or 80 years, we want to do it carefully and we want to do it right." The committee is investigating the benefits of having the exhibition grounds at new locations in the northeast and southeast parts of the city, versus keeping them in the same place. Once the consultants come back with their results, the committee will look at the options and decide where to go from there.