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.
Unfortunately, Westerner Park is currently experiencing financial instability. As such, The City of Red Deer assumed temporary financial oversight of the organization in January 2020.
Right now, The City of Red Deer and Westerner Park are working together to reestablish viable and sustainable business practices that ensure continued operation of the venue. More information will be available at the end of March with formal financial reviews and audits scheduled to begin soon.
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A number of factors ultimately led to the financial instability at Westerner Park, including the current economic reality; growing too quickly, too fast; and, poor decision making.
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.
Westerner Park has already taken a number of steps that serve to reduce the financial instability of organization. Westerner Park has eliminated on-site catering services, and is working to renegotiate key community contracts to ensure they support the overall viability of Westerner Park. Westerner Park has also reduced staff in some areas of the park. Next steps will include an in-depth external audit with The City of Red Deer to assess the full financial situation.
Without City support, Westerner Park may cease to exist. This support is necessary to ensure the short, medium and long-term sustainability of Westerner Park.
As of Monday, January 27, 2020, 14 full time equivalent and 24 part time and casual Westerner Park staff were laid off. A number of other staff have experienced reduction in hours and benefits as well.
All currently scheduled events will continue as planned. In addition, Westerner Park is reviewing contracts related to key major community events to ensure they are financially viable for the organization.
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 and Westerner Park are currently working 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.
The City will continue to maintain oversight until it is certain of Westerner Park’s financial stability.
At this time, we do not know whether any financial support will have future tax impacts, or not. Currently, we are working to better understand the financial details including an in-depth external audit. Until more information is known, the next steps are not yet clear; however, if needed, any approval for financial support to Westerner Park will come before City Council.
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 a third party in-depth external audit to rule out concerns of this nature.
Westerner Park is a non-profit organization with an average annual budget of approximately $14 to 15 million.
Westerner Park is currently led by a Board of Directors that provides 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.
Westerner Park’s next Annual General Meeting (AGM) is currently scheduled for fall 2020. Public will be notified when the date is finalized.