Regina Exhibition Association requests $400K from city council as COVID-19 pilfers profit

·3 min read
Regina Exhibition Association Limited, in charge of the facilities in the 100-acre lot of Evraz Place, said pandemic restrictions limited events and affected its bottom line.  (Alex Soloducha/CBC - image credit)
Regina Exhibition Association Limited, in charge of the facilities in the 100-acre lot of Evraz Place, said pandemic restrictions limited events and affected its bottom line. (Alex Soloducha/CBC - image credit)

Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL) is asking the city for funding to subsidize the financial losses it has felt during the COVID-19 pandemic.

REAL is responsible for running Evraz Place, which includes the Brandt Centre, Co-operators Centre and Mosaic Stadium. Most of its income comes from hosting major events, something that has been either not recommended or against public health guidelines at various times throughout the pandemic.

REAL requested $400,000 in funding in 2022, the same amount that was approved in 2021, during an meeting of city council's executive committee on Wednesday.

Tim Reid, president and CEO REAL, said the money would be for COVID-19 contingency.

The impact of COVID-19 on our business has been exceptional. - Dave Sinclair, chair of REAL's audit and finance committee

A statement of income supplied to the city shows that REAL lost more than $1.5 million in 2020. That includes the combined $4 million in COVID-19 assistance from the federal and provincial governments. It's forecasted to lose nearly $344,000 by the end of 2021, despite government assistance.

Dave Sinclair, chair of REAL's audit and finance committee, said that in a "good year," the organization will bring in between $500,000 and $1 million in profit.

Sinclair said the organization had expected to turn a profit when restrictions were lifted in July, but the last few months and the "reality of the fourth wave" altered that vision.

"Though we're quite positive that better days are on the horizon, we don't think those better days are coming quickly and we don't necessarily believe that they won't impact us in the year to come and beyond that," Sinclair said during a presentation on Wednesday.

"The impact of COVID-19 on our business has been exceptional."

Thomas Gagné/CBC
Thomas Gagné/CBC

During the pandemic, REAL hosted activities like Iceville, a skating rink installed in Mosaic Stadium, as a way to redeem costs lost to pandemic restrictions.

Before the pandemic, it had planned to reduce the amount of funding required from the city to zero by 2023 and become close to self-sustaining — only requesting $100,000 for the 2020 year. The organization has now pushed the goal back to 2026.

The requested $400,000 grant would add to the $700,000 conditional grant provided to REAL to make interest payments on debt, which snowballed over the course of the pandemic.

Sinclair called REAL's proposal a "bold but realistic" budget and asked the city to approve the request.

REAL said in a letter to the city that it hopes 2022 is the year for "permanent" recovery.

Other city service partners make requests

Alongside REAL's request were 2022 budget proposals from Economic Development Regina and the Provincial Capital Commission.

Economic Development Regina is asking for nearly $2.2 million in the 2022 year, about $337,000 more than its funding in 2021.

The Provincial Capital Commission asked for $2.72 million, the same amount approved for the 2021 budget.

The 10 councillors present — Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens was absent — voted in favour of a motion to consider the requests in its 2022 budget deliberations from Dec. 15 to 17.

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