The Ponoka Ag Event Centre Society (PAECS) is close to its $1.8M funding goal for Phase III of the Calnash Ag Event Centre and construction is tentatively set to begin in June, 2019.
Phase III involves enclosing the roughly 68,000 square foot area between the barn and the Ag Event Centre with a roof.
“The reason for the project is for the safety of livestock and in order to grow our events,” said Terry Jones, president of PAECS.
PAECS received a $350,000 grant in March from the former provincial government through the Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP).
The grant, as well as funds from Ponoka County and funds raised through the operation of the existing building, brings the total to $1.5M, leaving $300,000 to be raised.
In a couple of weeks, PAECS will come out with a plan for financing the remaining $300,000 and the project will go ahead as planned in June, according to Jones.
“In order for the project to go ahead, we don’t have to have all the funds raised,” said Jones, adding the society may borrow the remaining funds, or go to the community and corporate sector for donations.
Construction is expected to be completed in August, 2019.
Once the project is complete the Ag Event Centre will be able to hold more cattle-related events such as bull sales and cattle shows.
The new roof will also feature a ventilation system, ensuring quality of air for the cattle penned underneath.
Enclosing the area will be safer for cattle as they won’t be travelling over ice and snow during winter months, and will improve cleanliness as the livestock won’t be tracking in mud during the spring and summer months, says Jones.
The new roof is “mostly going to create a better environment for the cattle,” said Dennis Pugh, manager of the Calnash Ag Event Centre, adding it will also improve conditions for those who clean up after the cattle events as well.
During his seven years as manager, Pugh says he can attest that cattle events get really messy and create “a horrible cleaning problem.”
Events such as the Black Elk Cutting Classic Saturday, May 25, host 500 to 600 head of cattle, which can equal a lot of mud and mess.
The area can look great after it’s been cleaned up and fresh bedding and shavings put down, but all of that can be wrecked in one weekend of bad weather, says Pugh.
The area is currently cleaned up twice a year, but with the new roof, it will be simple to tidy up the pens after each show.
Cattle-related events are currently held in the barn.
There are 200 permanent stalls which are used for horses and 82 portable stalls, which can be dismantled to make room for cattle pens.
The barn can then hold only 60 head or less of cattle and the new area after the roof is completed could hold a couple hundred head of cattle.
Overall, Phase III is “a huge addition” that will improve ease of operations, cleanliness, and allow for more cattle-related events.
Pugh added that the Ag Event Centre is a big boon for Ponoka because of the amount of people the events attract to the area — people who come, stay and eat and fill up their vehicles for the weekend.
“We’re a major player, especially on the equine end of things, in Alberta and western Canada.”