Ag Society's ambitious Gateway Project now on hold
Ag society looks at scaling back Gateway Project in wake of highway interchange upgrade delay
The Olds Agricultural Society’s ambitious $50 million Gateway Project is now stalled indefinitely due to “competitive changes in the landscape” over the past year, notably the province’s controversial shelving of the Olds interchange construction project.
The development also means the society is now looking at alternatives for the project, including scaling back its overall size.
“Yes, it has been discussed,” said Tami Gardner, general manager of the society (OAS), of the possibility of downsizing the project’s original ambitious size and scope.
Groundbreaking for the project, pinpointed for the northeast corner of highways 2 and 27, envisioned including convention, community, agriculture and interpretive facilities, a 100-room hotel, racino (casino and race track), and grandstand. Construction for the project was hoped to begin within a 2012 to 2015 time frame but that plan has now been scrapped.
“There have been a lot of competitive changes in the landscape in the course of the past 12 to 24 months,” said Gardner. “Those influences range from the Pomeroy Hotel at Olds College, ongoing uncertainties with the Balzac race track and most influential, is the deferral of the interchange construction at Olds.”
Alberta Transportation (AT) notified Town of Olds officials last February the planned three-year Highway 2/27 interchange project had been deferred due to lack of funds resulting from a cut in the department’s budget. An AT official said a “rough” estimate for the Olds interchange project was about $15 million.
The province owns the northeast quadrant of land where the Gateway Project was being planned. Its acquisition of the property more than a decade ago was made to facilitate the construction –including the harvesting and utilization of the property’s clay fill – for the Highway 2/27 interchange upgrade.
The province’s deferral for the planned interchange upgrade – critically important for future access to the planned Gateway Project - was also “influential” in the society’s lack of success in pursing an application to the P3 Canada Fund - federal government financing essential for the project’s funding. The OAS five-year business plan has identified the future Gateway development as a P3 project, a public and private partnership that also includes fundraising.
“It is a little bit like the hub of a wheel, for sure,” said Gardner of the importance of the interchange construction for the Gateway Project.
Gardner conceded the setbacks influencing the society’s plans have scuttled previously planned timelines.
“With the interchange completely off the radar the time frame is now uncertain,” said Gardner.
However, she said the society is still committed to pursuing the project, even if it means scaling back its size.
“Absolutely. We will say it will happen but when is difficult to predict,” she said. “The ag society membership is working with our consultants to review our business plan.
“There is an ongoing need in Mountain View County and it has been identified,” added Gardner. “There have been discussions for this for more than a decade. We are committed to ensure their needs are met.”