A facility combining Olds Institute (OI), the chamber of commerce, Uptowne Olds and a visitor information centre should be open as early as next month, OI executive director Mitch Thomson says.
The facility, to be known as the Information and Entrepreneurship Centre, will be located in the former Cooperators building across 51st Avenue from the post office.
“It will include a digital copy centre, a virtual reality – a video type of a space, an electric vehicle charging station and installation, digital tourist information kiosks, portable information gazebo, furnishings and renovations in the facility,” he says.
The facility will be the headquarters for OI and the Olds & District Chamber of Commerce plus serve as a visitor information centre. It will also be a space where the Uptowne Olds committee can meet.
However, Uptowne coordinator Dalaura Glubrecht is expected to take over the operation of the Different Strokes gallery from current Uptowne coordinator Deb Olauson, so Glubrecht is expected to spend most of her time at that business, rather than in the Information and Entepreneur Centre.
Organizers have received a provincial Economic Development and Trade grant which will help cover renovations and equipment for the centre. Thomson pegs that figure at $119,000.
He says those renovations may not occur for a week or two though.
“We received confirmation that we’ve been approved. We haven’t received the contract that binds us as yet so we won’t be able to commence construction until we’ve got the paperwork signed,” he said when interviewed. “But (we anticipate that to happen) very, very shortly.”
One of the most exciting aspects of the centre is that it will be able to offer visitors a virtual reality tour.
That’s made possible by a $30,000 grant – part of the money provided by Economic Development and Trade.
“Basically what it’ll enable us to do is record people whitewater rafting or at a rodeo or different settings and possibly inset visitors into those places,” Thomson says. “So it would create an interactive space where visitors could get information about places they could visit in the area.”
“With the virtual reality stuff there are some funds for a 360-degree video camera that would be placed on a drone as well,” Thomson adds.
He cites the Olds College alumni rodeo, held last month, as an example of what could be done.
“It would be neat to be able to record a college student rodeo and then have people be able to experience that through a VR (virtual reality) headset or place themselves right into the event,” he says.
Basic office equipment like a big photocopier will also be installed so that visitors and business people can make use of it.
Currently, the parking lot in front of the old Cooperators offices and the adjacent Padnoma Supprt Serivces seems pretty full most of the time, but Thomson is confident there’ll be room for everyone, including big RVs brought in by visitors to the community plus the electric car charging stations.
“The facility itself has three lanes of parking stalls plus stalls along the side of the building. The lanes themselves are 120 feet long each, plus the off-street parking,” he says.
In total, organizers applied for a provincial grant totalling about $206,000.
The only thing that wasn’t approved was a mobile LED sign, which would likely be mounted on a trailer.
Thomson says it could be used to advertise events in the community for people coming into Olds or, because it would be high definition, it could be used for things like Movie in the Park.
“We saw it as a revenue source to help generate some revenue for the organizations and activities that would occur in the centre itself,” he says.
However, now that money for that wasn’t approved, Olds Institute will have to rethink whether to go ahead with that idea in some other way, and if so, how to fund it.
Thomson says later this year, organizers hope to provide business coaching and mentoring at the facility.
“We’re hoping to have an extra office where we can invite groups like Community Futures and Futurepreneur to come in and help support local business as well as other entities like Business Link,” Thomson says.
“So (we’re) really trying to increase the tools that are available for the business community and entrepreurs through the centre in cooperation with all the parties involved in the building itself.”
“This is Phase I of what we hope will be a two-part project in the future,” Thomson adds.
“In the long term we’d like to be able to teach people about intelligent use of technology. We’d like to create a space – a makerspace where creative tradespeople and artisans can work in a makerspace type of environment.”
“It would be neat to be able to record a college student rodeo and then have people be able to experience that through a VR (virtual reality) headset or place themselves right into the event.”MITCH THOMSON EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OLDS INSTITUTE