Last night (Feb 15), The Strathmore & District Agricultural Society launched their capital campaign for their Western Events and Cultural Centre (WECC). 

Ryan Schmidt, CEO of the Strathmore Agricultural Society, gave a presentation revealing the details and plans for WECC. 

“Welcome to the Western Events and Cultural Centre, where tradition meets tomorrow. Our goal is to establish a vibrant epicenter that honours the past while shaping the future,” said Schmidt, starting the presentation. 

The mission of WECC is to accommodate a wide variety of events to ensure it would be well used in Wheatland County. 

There will be two main portions of WECC: a cultural collective space and an arena and western events space. 

The WECC arena and western events space will include a 25,000-square-foot interior dirt riding space with a 5,000-square-foot warm-up area off to the side and a seating capacity of 2000. 

The intention of this is to host rodeos, work with cattle, barrel racing, concerts, powwows, trade shows, and farm shows. 

The spacious building and all the seating are meant to capture tourism opportunities and provide lots of room for rodeos and concerts. 

“The positive ripple effect of being able to host local, national, and international events and performances will be felt by every business in the area. Farms, feed stores, hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, you name it,” Schmidt said. 

The cultural collective space will be a flexible space to host all kinds of events and will be able to transform into a performing arts theater. 

It will be able to host plays, theater, and dance competitions. 

The flexible cultural collective space will also support other types of events, such as weddings, trade shows, graduation ceremonies, and more. 

The performing arts theater space will accommodate 260 patrons with retractable theater-style seating, plus accessible seating for 40 more on the ground. 

When the seating is retracted, the multi-use space will be able to accommodate 600 people. 

Strathmore lacks a performing arts space, and it is something that many people have been advocating for in the town, as concerts and plays are often hosted in churches or schools that don't have the proper capacity or stage for these types of events. 

Linda Storkson, President of the Strathmore Musical Arts Society, and Anne Bailey, Secretary of the Musical Arts Society, expressed their excitement for the cultural collective space. 

“We have been wanting this for a very long time, so this will be a real bonus for us. Strathmore needs a place with good acoustics and audience capacity because we are bringing in top-quality musicians. It is a bonus that we can also feed people there. Our goal has always been top-quality music and a dinner theater atmosphere,” Storkson said. 

Bailey and Storkson are excited that music and performing arts lovers in Strathmore will no longer have to drive to the city to attend concerts. 

“Strathmore could become a mecca for music,” Storkson said. 

Bailey said it can often be a struggle with parking when it comes to events, so she looks forward to WECC having a spacious events centre with a ton of parking spaces available. 

“This will be such a plus to the community and the musical community here in town,” Bailey said. 

There are many other small details of WECC, such as 300 interior and exterior horse suites and up to 150 fully powered RV camper stalls, so western event enthusiasts can pull up with their living quarters and plug it in. 

The part of WECC Schmidt is most excited for is the Practical Ranching School, which will train young people in the community about the ways of fair and sustainable farming. 

The vision is to have tourists come to tour the Learning Ranch, watch bull riding events, and order beef on a bun that would be produced on the same ranch they just toured, run by the students at the Practical Ranching School. 

WECC will partner with local high schools and post-secondary institutes so students can earn dual credits. 

A Rodeo Academy will also be a part of WECC, which will be a year-round premier institution dedicated to nurturing future rodeo stars of all ages and backgrounds through comprehensive coaching and access to top-tier facilities. 

In 2019, the AG Society began pursuing the development of WECC. 

An advisory committee was created in 2021, filled with experts on western events. 

WECC then started a third-party feasibility study in 2022 and completed it in 2023, which then led to the current launch of the capital campaign. 

“We are doing this now to seize the opportunity. With what's happening right now in Wheatland County and Strathmore, we have the chance to meet a huge demand for western event spaces while meeting a long-standing need in our communities for performing arts and cultural spaces,” Schmidt said. 

WECC will be located east of town, right off of Township Road 244 and on Range Road 250. 

This location was specifically chosen due to its closeness to the AG grounds in Strathmore, economic benefits, community building, business development, and tourism. 

“We can become a gateway to the Canadian Badlands. This centre serves as an attractor to Wheatland County and Strathmore. It provides an optimal location and foothold in the eastern corridor. WECC can serve as a tourism anchor for the region and a starting point for a tour through Blackfoot Crossing, Rosebud Theatre, and Drumheller’s famous museum,” Schmidt said. 

Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule spoke about the opportunities this will provide for the area. 

“The Town of Strathmore is really excited about this project. We believe it is a great way to honour the Western heritage of this area. We think it's a great way to bring people into the community and showcase what this region has to offer,” Fule said. 

Mayor Fule spoke about the rich history of farming and ranching in the area and believes WECC will help bring people into the area. 

“The opportunity for a rodeo academy, school, and cultural events center will bring a lot of people to Strathmore and Wheatland County, really showcase the area, and help us get our name on the map.” 

The AG society hopes to start construction in 2025 and, if all goes well, to have the building completed by the end of 2026. 

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