By Jasmine Franklin
A community built on agriculture will soon have something more to brag about.
As early as April 15, construction could be seen for Ponoka’s new Ag-Events Centre.
“The longer I’m involved with this project the more impressed I am on what it will do for the community,” said Charlie Cutforth, ag-events society president. “We are already receiving calls from major organizations wanting to book the facility — it’s hard to say just what the limit will be with the effects of this project.”
Talks of a building to house agriculture activities and arenas began several years ago after members of the community felt a one-stop agricultural building was needed.
What will the facility include?
The proposed 79,000-square-foot events centre will have a capacity of 1,500 people and include an indoor arena, a banquet area, public and administration areas, trailer parking, stocking pens, a minimum of two indoor barns and parking areas.
“It has a great community use,” said Sherry Gummow, president of the Ponoka Ag Society. “The space can be rented out for concerts and different shows. It will definitely be an economic booster.”
Partnership to make the idea come to life
The events centre is becoming a reality thanks to a strong partnership, Gummow said. The “biggest thing the ag society has done” could not be accomplished without the help of all supporters.
A four-way partnership with the Ponoka Ag Society, Ponoka Stampede Association, Ponoka County and the Town of Ponoka makes the centre possible.
While the Ponoka Ag Event Centre Society takes care of the strategic plans, the project received a big boost from the Stampede Association, which donated 14.45 acres of land near the stampede grounds.
“We are grateful for all of our supporters,” Gummow said. “They are very much appreciated.”
When will construction begin?
“As soon as the frost is off the ground we hope to get things moving,” Cutforth said. “After we hire the project manager, there will be nothing we are waiting for.”
Gummow said the sod turning can be expected as early as April 15 so long as weather permits.
It was decided last month the society would proceed with construction plans under the direction of a project manager. Using this strategy seemed the best way to incorporate local businesses into the project, Cutforth said.
“We wanted to make sure that local people and businesses at least have the opportunity to bid on the job,” he said. “We want them in the game.”
Gummow said applications for a project manager closed March 5 and the final decision will be made soon.
“It is really important to us that community involvement is taken into consideration for this project,” Gummow said.
An intersection will be built to create an entrance from Highway 2A.
At an estimated $8.5 million, the final cost will not be determined until after a project manager is hired.
“The manager will tender each company,” Cutforth said. “We won’t know the bottom line until the manager gets some work done.”
Fundraising is still underway but Cutforth said to date, there is $7 million in the bank for the project.
“We have been talking and talking about this project and have finally reached a point where it is almost done,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming and will really be an enhancement to the community.”