REAL asks for Regina city council's help ahead of budget deliberations

At least $40 million worth of deferred maintenance is also needed on the facilities managed by Regina Exhibition Association Limited. (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)
At least $40 million worth of deferred maintenance is also needed on the facilities managed by Regina Exhibition Association Limited. (Alexander Quon/CBC - image credit)

Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL) made its budget case before city council members at executive committee Wednesday afternoon, as budget preparations ramp up.

CEO Tim Reid told councillors that REAL doesn't want to keep asking for funding, but has to now because of the pandemic.

"We live and die on the big event," Reid told councillors.

"Never more clearly has this been shown than it has been shown through COVID-19."

Reid talked about how big events like the Briar and the Memorial Cup generated significant funds to help with the bottom line at REAL. With COVID, the inability to do that put REAL behind.

The city owns all of the facilities and REAL operates them on its behalf.

There's also at least $40 million worth of deferred maintenance that the facilities will eventually need.

"The current business model at REAL is facing considerable pressures and is it not performing to the expected standard achieved prior to COVID. It remains unclear, at this time, what the long term impact will be on sustainability," a report delivered to executive committee reads, in part.

"What is clear is the current performance is unsustainable and will require a material shift in funding our service levels."

Regina Mayor Sandra Masters said the city needs to pay close attention to the maintenance schedule, but it is hard to generate revenue after COVID-19 put the entity so far behind.

"I think there has to be a little bit of an approach to say that we're not going to let assets fall into further disrepair or fall behind in terms of its maintenance schedule," she told reporters Wednesday.

"And the subsidy just isn't there because the operations simply aren't back up to where they were in 2019."

Recovery is a long game at this point, she said.

"Any notion of a big bounce without further investment is probably naive … 2024 in terms of COVID recovery is probably a bit more accurate," she said.

Economic Development Regina is no longer responsible for tourism, a decision made official by Regina city council earlier this year.

Instead, that duty has been given to REAL.

REAL is requesting $2 million per year from the city for 2023 and 2024.

That would come in the form of a $400,000 annual operating grant and a previously approved $700,000 conditional grant related to assisting principal and interest payments on the organisation's debt.

An additional $910,000 in the funding request would be used to address REAL's expanded tourism responsibility.

The executive committee voted to approve the request, but council still has to go through budget deliberations in December.