I have some serious concerns about the Calnash Ag Event Centre and the direction that this facility is taking. At the onset of the planning, a committee that I am involved with was asked to meet with members of the Stampede Association to discuss what would be needed in the new facility to accommodate cattle events. At that time, I was under the impression that the facility would be a multi-use facility (as stated on their web page). Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.
A recent rental inquiry to host a Youth Cattle Clipping Clinic and Show met with very little success (this would have been their third year). Access was very limited and very expensive; they were also advised that the facility was more equine focused. I did some price comparisons and it would be cheaper to stall cattle at Farm Fair in Edmonton than in Ponoka. I realize that the bottom line is very important and the cutting, team penning and barrel racing events provide a much needed income, but for the majority of the participants, it is a hobby not a career.
The small barn at the rear of the facility was built with asphalt flooring which makes it ideal for livestock, but at this time the barn is full of box stalls. There are not many times during the year that all of these stalls are required, so it would make sense to me to remove these stalls so that the barn could be used for cattle events and when the need arose, they could be put back in. I understand that to date, there has only been one bull sale held in the facility and they were told this year that the Ag Event Centre was unable to host their event. It seems to me that with this being bull sale season, rentals should be a top priority as they would definitely generate revenue, not only for the facility but for the Town of Ponoka as a whole. Vold, Jones & Vold Auction Mart uses the “Cattle Capital of Canada” as their moniker, but obviously this thought does not extend across the road.
As a county taxpayer, I would like to see the benefits from over $3.8 million (cash and work in kind) extend to the 4H members and the youth of our agricultural industry; whether they be involved with the equine or cattle industry. After all, they are the future of the industry as well as the community. When the building was under construction, a lot of the companies that donated did so because they thought that the community would benefit as a whole, not just the equine section of the industry. I wonder if they know the direction this facility is taking.
I have discussed my concerns with Doug Weir, the County of Ponoka councillor on the PAECS Board and I hope that he recognizes the importance of encouraging the diversified use of this facility.
If the current trend continues, the Calnash Ag Event Centre will definitely become known as an elitist facility (and not in a positive light).
After all, the sign on the front of the facility reads “The Calnash Trucking Ag Event Centre”, not “The Calnash Trucking Equine Centre”.