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YEA looks to city to help complete grandstand

Council supportive of project needs
grandstand summer 2021
The grandstand was in use in 2021, but was not completed. (File Photo)

YORKTON - The Yorkton Exhibition Association wants to complete the grandstand project with a Phase 2 this year, but were at the regular meeting of Yorkton Council asking the city for more help to pay for the work. 

Lori Walsh representing the YEA told Council they are at a point of wanting to proceed with the additional work “which completes the grandstand by making the facility fully accessible with concrete walkways, the addition of a mezzanine, fully enclosing the structure with steel cladding and installing chain link fencing beneath the structure as added safety measures.” 

Initially YEA had raised enough funding to cover both Phase 1 and 2. Phase 2 was initially quoted at approximately $180,000. So even with the total grandstand expenses of $750,000, we were prepared to invest the additional $180,000 to complete the project for total costs of $930,000, she explained. 

However, costs have jumped significantly. The initial quote for the second phase increased from $180,000 to $400,000 and that cost was not etched in stone. 

“Due to the uncertainty and volatility in the market, the current quote is good for only 14 days,” said Walsh, adding “. . . It is important to note the scope of the project has not changed at all, but the costs have more than doubled. 

“While the YEA was initially well positioned to finish the project, with the cost increases it is currently beyond our means.” 

The situation is one where the YEA itself has just come through a two-year period with no events held due to the pandemic, said Walsh. 

“We are still working to get our association back on our feet, and while things are looking favorable there are still impacts such as the recent cancellation of our Spring Expo. Again, due to the supply challenges, our vendors were not able to commit to our show as they do not have inventory to support the event; and without vendors we do not have a show,” she said. 

That said the YEA remains committed to a Phase 2 because the grandstand is a good asset in the city, said Walsh. 

“Restoring the grandstand was a significant priority not only for the Yorkton Exhibition Association, but other community groups alike as it has been a pillar in our community since the first one was built in 1914. The Exhibition Association hosts many events on the grandstand, as do other groups and organizations within the community. This is an asset to the city of Yorkton as it is home to great agricultural, educational, entertainment, cultural and community events that help stimulate our economy and bring people together – this venue offers something for everyone,” she said. 

The grandstand hosts well over 50,000 guests every year through various events and attractions, events such as the summer fair, chuckwagon and chariot races, outdoor rodeos, RCMP Musical Ride, which is coming back this spring, truck and tractor pulls, GX94 Star Search, demolition derbies, Rhythm’ n Ribs, and monster trucks. 

“The grandstand is a strong economic driver as it not only attracts people from Yorkton, but even more so it also attracts people from within the region to our city which benefits our local economy,” said Walsh. 

The support for the grandstand is reflected in community donations for work so far having raised approximately $930,000 in total funding specific to this project, said Walsh. 

So to complete the work the YEA asked for a financial contribution of $200,000 to the project and an increase to our interest-free loan to a total of $405,000. 

When all is said and done with the project, the investment in the grandstand will be $1,150,000. 

“It is also important to note while YEA is leading this project, it remains a city-owned asset,” reminded Walsh. “If the city were to invest an additional $200,000 for a total financial commitment of $500,000 that equates to a $0.43 dollar to have a new million-dollar facility in the community . . . Once this project is completed this will be a fully accessible facility that will be enjoyed by all.” 

City Manager Lonnie Kaal said fronting money to community organizations while they fundraise is not new.

An easy solution would be for the City to front the fundraising commitments and provide a separate loan of $180,000 to be repaid over the next four or five years. This is similar to the commitment made to the Yorkton Brick Mill Society, and Deer Park Men’s Club, explained a report circulated to Council Monday. 

The additional $200,000 toward the project could be paid from lease dollars for the Tim Horton’s property, as it was previously determined that the TDL lease would go towards joint projects with the Yorkton Exhibition, said Kaal. 

The YEA request spurred lengthy debates by Council. 

Councillor Dustin Brears suggested holding off on the work in hopes the volatility of material pricing moderate. 

Coun. Ken Chyz countered that “no one has a crystal ball” and prices could just as easily rise higher in a year. 

It was also suggested the city might support the interest free loan but hold off on a further $200,000 contribution awaiting better prices. 

Walsh said that would have to be discussed by the YEA Board in terms of what to do at that point, but noted it could put the work on Phase 2 “in jeopardy.” 

Coun. Darcy Zaharia questioned if the added dollars would negatively impact city finances? 

Kaal said since the money would come from an internal loan, and a known revenue source for payments, it was “doable” without being detrimental to the city. 

Mayor Mitch Hippsley said while dollars are always tight the grandstand was ultimately “a Yorkton asset,” which was “a family amenity.” 

Eventually the loan and additional $200K was approved, although Councillors Brears and Chris Wyatt sat opposed.

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