Strathmore ag society planning new riding arena

·3 min read

The Strathmore and District Agricultural Society is planning to build a riding arena that would provide a place for rodeo activities throughout the year.

The project was a key piece of the organization’s five-year strategic plan, completed in the fall of 2019, explained Ryan Schmidt, Strathmore and District Agricultural Society general manager and CEO.

“It will be a western events venue, focused on supporting our deep farming and ranching heritage,” he said.

The purpose of the structure is to allow the ag society to accomplish its mission throughout the seasons.

“Right now, most of our agricultural related events kind of stop when the snow flies, but by having an indoor facility, we’ll be able to accomplish our mission year-round,” said Schmidt.

While there are indoor riding arenas around locally, they lack seating capacity for handling larger events, he added.

The new venue will be designed to host a range of shows, including barrel racing, rodeo, open riding cattle shows, cutting horse and reining horse, and 4-H events.

“It’ll run the gamut across all the western events,” said Schmidt.

The ag society intends to site the facility on property it owns near the corner of Township Road 244 and Range Road 250, just east of Strathmore.

Several members of the ag society board and rodeo committee visited arenas around the province to see how their features and designs vary. These ranged from the massive Calnash Trucking Ag Event Centre in Ponoka to smaller venues.

Schmidt said the new arena will likely be medium-sized, with seating for up to about 1,500 people.

“It’d be a mid-range facility, but one with ample seating so that we can have attended events.”

The specifics of the arena’s design are yet to be determined, but it is being envisioned with a main entranceway with a front office and concessions area, leading to double doors into the arena area. The dirt or sand-filled arena will feature seating on both sides, cattle handling systems, chutes and gates for different events, and likely horse showering facilities. There could also be pens for people keeping their horses overnight, noted Schmidt.

The ag society is also considering including a campsite, as this is commonly sought by people travelling with western events needing a spot for their camper.

But much still needs to be decided. For now, the ag society has assembled an advisory committee of representatives from across western events and groups who, together with a designer, will finalize the look of the project. From there, mockups of the design will be created to estimate cost.

With those pieces in hand, the ag society will seek government grants, corporate sponsorship, and if necessary, pursue financing to get the project funding together by the end of the year. Once the ag society completes planning and design and if funding can be secured in 2021, the arena would be constructed in 2022.

That would mean the new arena would be ready in 2023, so its grand opening would coincide with the 50th anniversary of the ag society.

“That’s kind of been in the back of our mind the whole time – to try and time those together,” said Schmidt.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times