The Town of Ponoka has begun the process of transferring the Ponoka Stampede grounds over to the Ponoka Stampede Association (PSA), starting with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Friday, June 26.
“By investing in the future success and growth of the Stampede – Ponoka’s largest tourism attraction – the town expects to benefit from the increased economic impact that the Stampede would provide to the community by continuing to host a major tourism event that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Ponoka every summer,” said Mayor Rick Bonnett in a news release.
Currently, the PSA leases the land from the town, and has since the beginning of the Stampede in the late 1930s.
The MOU signifies a commitment from both the town and the PSA to work together to develop agreements that would allow for the future transfer of land to the PSA, including the creation of a an Area Structure Plan (ASP).
An ASP would guide future uses and development on the land, and the town believes an ASP could lead to new commercial development and amenities such as camping and other attractions.
There would be public consultation involved in the development of an ASP.
The intention is that the land would be granted to the PSA and the PSA would continue to own and use the land for community purposes as a non-profit entity.
The land to be transferred includes the area currently occupied by the Stampede track, grandstands, office and the Stagecoach Saloon building.
The news release detailed the economic benefits the Stampede has on the Town of Ponoka, including millions spent locally, funding given to local service groups, and the support it gave to the creation of the Calnash Ag Event Centre.
The PSA donated the 16.9 acres of land the Calnash sits on and contributed to its construction costs. It has also contributed to their operating costs.
As a non-profit society, all the money made by the PSA goes back into paying for its operational and development costs.
In the release, Bonnett also pointed out that all the land to be transferred was undeveloped and unsuitable for agricultural use when the Stampede started leasing it.
“The value that exists on that land today is largely due to the hard work and improvements made by the Stampede Association over the last 84 years.”
The PSA has made improvements to the land over the years, including clearing and grading the land, and building the infrastructure that stands there today.
The details and terms of the land transfer are still to be determined, but will be decided through talks between the town and PSA, as well as input from the public.
“The Ponoka Stampede Association appreciates the long history of collaboration between the Stampede and the town over the past 84 years,” said PSA president Bruce Harbin in the release.
“As a community-based group, we are committed to continuing to support the Ponoka community and work closely with the Town on a plan to guide future development on the Stampede lands and surrounding district to generate new growth for the community and the Stampede together.”