|Herald photo by David Rossiter
Exhibition Park general manager Rudy Friesen, left, and development coordinator Bridget Mearns prepare for a presentation on an update on the redevelopment of Exhibition Park in the Saddle Room of the South Pavilion Tuesday.
The redevelopment of Exhibition Park, which could include 250,000 square feet of trade and convention space as well as a new 75,000 square-foot Agriplex, will be a "game changer" for Lethbridge and southern Alberta.
So says Rudy Friesen, the park's general manager, who outlined highlights of a four-year joint committee study during a press conference at the South Pavilion Tuesday morning.
Specific details are being kept under wraps until the design concepts are presented to the Exhibition's board of directors during the first week of December and no specific timeline or proposed cost were announced.
If approved, the plan will be made public in January and presented to city council in March or April.
"The plan, as it exists right now, would look at a complete new rebuild over a course of time and then there would be a complete demolishing of the existing site," Friesen said.
"That's where we're at today and that's the model that we're looking at. Will it exactly translate into that? Time will tell," he continued.
"But the key piece of that from our perspective, and certainly having that campground land added into this equation makes this a real possibility, is that we do have a situation where we can do an entire build and not interrupt our existing business operation - which is very important for us."
The eight-acre Henderson Lake Campground will become Exhibition property on Jan. 1, adding to the park's current 63 acres.
No plans for the space were made public, but Friesen says they will attempt to play up the street appeal towards Henderson Park.
"There's lots of good ideas about how to use that space," he said.
"As a percentage, it's a fairly significant increase in the overall area for Exhibition Park, so it's going to be really valuable for us in terms of development moving forward."
The redevelopment committee, formed in 2009, included members of Exhibition Park's board of directors, city council, and a member each from the Chamber of Commerce and the County of Lethbridge, as well as one at-large member.
They completed a financial review of the organization, a condition facility audit of all facilities, a community and market needs assessment and a multiple accounts evaluation framework to determine the preferred site for Exhibition Park redevelopment.
The existing site was also confirmed as the ideal location.
Friesen says there will be a major focus on adding trade and convention space because of market demand and the potential of increased tourism business.
"Those are the things that are really going to help Lethbridge become more of a destination. I think the important thing at the outset is to generate that trade and conference facility, the convention space and get into that process," he said.
"In general terms, the market has a real demand for large area space for trade shows with accompanying meeting rooms, of very different sizes and shapes to accommodate their needs, all kind of in one location. That's really what we're going for."
Friesen said once a plan is approved, capitol is secured and a start date is announced, the rebuild would likely take three years.