by Phil Ambroziak

Mother Nature’s mess has bought the historic Meadow Lake grandstand a little more time.

The grandstand was originally scheduled to come down next week, but those plans have been put on hold because of how sloppy the melting snow has made the local Stampede Grounds.

“We’re not going to be able to do it as planned because of the weather,” explained grandstand committee chair Dustin Gorst. “It will have to wait to come down once things dry up a little.”

The decision to remove the existing grandstand – which has been closed to the public for some time because of its dilapidated condition – was made last fall when, during budget deliberations, city council approved funds for its deconstruction.

“Council and the grandstand committee agreed rehabilitating the existing stands was not an option due to the degree of repairs that would be required,” noted mayor Gary Vidal. “If there was no intent to utilize the existing grandstands regardless of the path forward, it was best on a number of fronts to plan for its removal. As far as the plan for the future – those discussions are ongoing.”

Gorst echoed this, stating it’s been the grandstand committee’s goal from day one to build something new.

“We’re still working with the city on what the final outcome will be,” he said. “Nothing has been decided yet in terms of what exactly will be built or where it will be built, but we’re working on it.”
The committee has a spring meeting planned for April 16 at the Meadow Lake Civic Centre to discuss future fundraising ideas and potential options going forward. He said new members are welcome to attend and to share their input.

“In the meantime, fundraising is ongoing,” Gorst said. “DJ King is looking to bring a Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association (CPCA) show to Meadow Lake during the Calgary Stampede. It’s in the early stages, but he’s seeing if there is any appetite for this from the CPCA drivers who are not competing at the Stampede. It’s important to keep chuckwagon racing in Meadow Lake, but once we have the new grandstand in place we want the area to become a hub not only for racing, but for demolition derbies, concerts, you name it.”

Currently, the grandstand committee has raised close to $70,000 ($40,000 from last year’s chuckwagon races and $30,000 from other initiatives), but Gorst said there’s no definitive goal when it comes to how much the group would like to collect.

“It’s going to be an ongoing thing,” he said.

One thing he did confirm, however, is the committee’s desire to build the new grandstand at the local Stampede Grounds – the site of the current grandstand.

“We already have a track there, electrical and water – to move it someplace else would be much more costly,” he said. “The Stampede Grounds have been at that spot for close to 100 years, though, and it would be a shame if they would have to be moved.”

Gorst also said he would like to see the business community increase its efforts to support the committee, adding events such as the recent Winter Festival and other attractions that utilize the location create an economic spinoff for local shops and services rather than the city itself.

“We need to support each other,” he concluded.