Edmonton city council approved a $1.68-million loan to Fort Edmonton Park on Monday to help it reopen on schedule in May.
Fort Edmonton Park, the southwest Edmonton historical attraction, has been undergoing renovations for two years. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated financial issues, prompting the park to ask for a cash injection, said Darren Dalgleish, president and CEO of Fort Edmonton Management Company.
"None of us could have ever known what the health crisis would look like or how it might affect business," Dalgleish told CBC's Edmonton AM.
The park was closed for two years due to the Fort Edmonton Park Enhancement project, a $165-million investment from all three levels of government and the Fort Edmonton Foundation. Construction began in fall 2018.
In 2020, rental events and weddings were closed from May to September to allow for continued construction activity. But Dalgleish said the pandemic shut down their annual Halloween event and all rental activity for the rest of the year.
"We were able to recover some of that revenue but it was a much truncated version of what we're accustomed to," he said.
He said the nonprofit has made the necessary adjustments and with this new influx of money they hope to open by the May long weekend.
Dalgleish said some construction was delayed due to the pandemic but it will not affect customers when the park reopens.
After renovations, the park will feature a new entrance and more open spaces, including an open-air museum. "People want to be outside. They want to be safe in fresh air and distance, and we have the perfect arrangement for that," he said.
The biggest addition to the park is the Indigenous People's Experience, an exhibit where visitors can learn about First Nations and Métis peoples. It also includes an expanded midway that will feature more space as a rental venue and a 1920s carnival complete with a ferris wheel, maze and fun house.
Fort Edmonton Management Company did explore other funding options like grants and sponsorships, but they did not resolve immediate funding needs, according to a city report.
The report states that the money for the loan will be taken from the city's financial stabilization reserve.
Although the city report states that the loan can be paid over a five-year period, Dalgleish said they hope to return the money over the next two years.