The outdoor Stettler rodeo grounds will have a new look when rodeo season kicks off later this year.
After two years that have been particularly hard on boards across the province, and the world, the Stettler and District Agricultural Society in 2021 decided to look into possible investment of their facilities.
“We were happy with the indoor facilities,” said ag. society director Ty Wilson.
“The outdoor (facilities) had a bit to be desired. The facility was getting tired.”
In the fall of 2021 the society made the decision to go ahead with the revitalization of the outdoor arena. Plans were drafted and demolition began on the existing site.
To maximize dollars, and hopefully attract larger events with the upgraded facilities, the board decided to go ahead with the entire Legacy Project over the winter instead of breaking it into phases.
Renovations on the outdoor facility will include an all new steel construction and dirt work done to help with drainage.
“The facility will be state of the art,” said Wilson.
“It will be as good of a facility as anywhere, but affordable.”
Included in the site development will be some landscape development including the placement of up to 100 trees on the site.
The design of the facility was done in conjunction with a pair of Stettler area “living legends,” Rocky Ross and Monty Gertner.
According to Wilson, the pair have around 50 years of rodeo experience between them.
While the agricultural society is still waiting for construction permits from the town, they anticipate the permits to be approved and construction to be complete by sometime in June, well in advance of the Steel Wheels Stampede.
Estimated costs for the project will be around $400,000, however through donations and grants that have come in half that amount has already been raised.
The remainder of the funding, for the time being anyway, will come by way of a line of credit provided by a local banking institution which came forward and told the society “we’ve got your back,” according to Wilson.
Wilson noted that even with the complications of the COVID-19 pandemic the society was still able to hold some events over the last two years, with around 50,000 people going through the agricultural grounds gates.
While that number is only around one-third of the total capacity, it still represents a significant number in a time of great unknowns.
“We’re humbled the way the community has rallied behind us,” said Wilson.
“We could not have survived without town support.”
Wilson, along with Gertner and Ross, presented the project to the County of Stettler in March and to the Town of Stettler on April 5.
“To see them take that leap is really exciting to see,” said Stettler mayor Sean Nolls, in an interview after the meeting.
“I think they are doing good things.”
While the grounds do get frequent use during the summer months, Wilson is hoping to push the utilization rate even higher once the project is done. In doing so, the hope is increase the number of people who come to the community who spend money.
Wilson says that if every person who came to town because of the grounds spent just $10 in town, based on 150,000 people per year for this facility, that is a revenue increase of $1.5 million to Stettler businesses.