By CHARLES TWEED
If you’ve driven south out of Ponoka on Highway 2A, you’ve surely noticed the new Ponoka Ag Event Centre. You may think not a lot has changed there in quite some time but a trip inside the new complex tells a different story.
With plumbing, electrical, and mechanical work ongoing, the centre is starting to take shape.
Charlie Cutforth, president of the Ponoka Ag Event Centre Society, said the late spring is slowing down some of the progress they’d like to make outside of the centre.
He said the society has approximately $1.4 million set aside to build the barn that will house the pens to the east of the centre. The plan was to originally build a 200-stall barn but after speaking with many of the groups interested in using the centre, Cutforth said they might have to look at more stalls.
“The main thing is this barn because a lot of these major events require you to have the right facilities for them,” said Cutforth.
He hopes that the big events can, in a way, subsidize the building for smaller local groups who want to use it for a function. Cutforth doesn’t think finding groups to book the centre is going to be a problem.
“The demand for this is outstanding — I don’t have any doubt that as soon as we put a notice on our website saying, “we’re accepting bookings’ it be fully booked within 30 days,” said Cutforth.
Cutforth hopes the main building is complete by July 1 for the Ponoka Stampede but doubts the barn will be finished. Paving around the building is also a concern and he estimates they need to raise another $1.5 million to complete the project.
“The local support, once they understand that a component of the (MSI) grant has to be spent on joint community projects, when everyone hears that they’re right on side and it’s ideal and so suited to what we do,” said Cutforth speaking on behalf of Ponoka County.
There are still a few loose ends that need to be tied up before the real roping can begin. In the coming months the PAECS will hire a manager to run the centre, and naming rights for the centre and specific rooms in the building are still up in the air.
The big concern is making sure when the centre does open it’s ready to hit the ground running.
“You don’t want to open too soon, you have to be ready and done otherwise you turn the organizations away right off the start and then you’re in trouble,” said Cutforth.