By KENDALL KING on April 12, 2023.
The city plans to continue enhancing and introducing new event and entertainment options after achieving several successes over the past five years, despite encountering setbacks during the pandemic.
In an information item presented to the public services committee Monday, Community Development director Leah Prestayko shared that the city was able to broaden the reach and impact of community events and entertainment significantly since 2019.
She highlighted the introduction of new events, entertainment opportunities and venues; creation of new partnerships; and acquisition of new funding.
“We take meaningful action to provide support and facilitate meaningful opportunities for people to engage with their community and with each other,” said Prestayko. “That can be through arts and culture, music and heritage or sport and competition. Whatever the venue or industry, we aim to promote vibrancy, inspire community and deliver exceptional experience.”
Prestayko outlined several key focuses the city had in terms of events and entertainment throughout the past five years, which include wanting to ensure barrier-free access for community members and wanting to promote Medicine Hat’s downtown.
To remove barriers like affordability or physical accessibility, Prestayko says the city has worked to introduce as many free or pay-what-you-will experiences as possible in locations throughout the city, making mention of The Deep Dark art installation at Police Point Park last October.
As a central location accessible to many residents, there has been specific emphasis on hosting events and entertainment opportunities downtown in spaces such as the currently unused Monarch Theatre, and recently opened Towne Square.
As well, Prestayko feels the city was successful at generating interest in events and entertainment opportunities held at the Esplanade and Co-op Place, as attendance at both venues is continuing to increase after hitting record lows during the pandemic.
Between 2021 and 2022, attendance at the Esplanade jumped from an estimated 17,349 to 66,574, and at Co-op Place from 33,382 to 107,286.
While both numbers remain below pre-pandemic levels, Prestayko is confident continued efforts to enhance local events and entertainment will result in greater attendance.
“We’re seeing increased vitality across our places and spaces and reaching new people in different ways,” said Prestayko. “In 2023 so far, we hosted what we believe are two of the largest indoor gatherings ever in Medicine Hat history at Co-op Place. Those were both Tigers games against the Regina Pats with phenom Connor Bedard in town.”
Greater attendance led to subsequent increases in the revenue and expenses of both venues between 2021 and 2022. In 2021, combined revenue of the Esplanade and Co-op Place was roughly $2.3 million and expenses $6.3 million. While in 2022, combined revenue was roughly $6.7 million and expenses $10.7 million.
Prestayko acknowledged that both venues operate at a deficit, which has ranged anywhere from $3.9 million to $4.5 million since 2019, but says that is the nature of such facilities which exist to benefit the community and residents.
“This is our investment in the community,” said Prestayko.