As part of its economic recovery plan, City Council on Monday unanimously approved several significant requests by the Lethbridge & District Exhibition, including funding of $25 million and provide a 30-year loan to the Exhibition for up to $17.8-million, for a 268,000-square-foot Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre.
The $25 million will come from various funding sources and a combination of grants, reserves, internal and/or external borrowing, and the pay-as-you-go program. There is no additional impact on taxation to Lethbridge residents from this project.
"This Exhibition Park Agri-Food Hub and Trade Centre will be a major economic catalyst for Lethbridge," says Mayor Chris Spearman. "We are thrilled to be moving forward with this project without any additional impact to our taxpayers."
The Exhibition project, estimated to cost $72.8 million overall, is contingent on receiving Government of Alberta financial support, which was confirmed in June, as well as Municipal Government support, and includes Lethbridge & District Exhibition taking out a loan on a portion of the project.
As part of the $17.8-million loan, which will be available for transfer to Lethbridge & District Exhibition on Jan. 1, 2022, the City has agreed to waive the 0.25 per cent administration fee.
As part of the new agreement, ownership of the Exhibition Park site is to remain the property of the City of Lethbridge, but the City will grant a site lease to Lethbridge & District Exhibition for the term of 50 years, expiring in 2070, with an option to extend for an additional 50-year term expiring in 2120.
In addition, the City of Lethbridge will provide debt forgiveness for the remaining value of the previous loan of $3.8 million, in exchange for the title to the 155.71 acres of owned land by Lethbridge & District Exhibition. The balance of $3.8 million will be funded from the Municipal Revenue Stabilization Reserve (MRSR).
No additional operating funds will be required from the City of Lethbridge. Lethbridge & District Exhibition have consulted with Meyers Norris Penny to develop an extensive financial model that shows the ongoing financial sustainability for the organization, including putting away a capital replacement reserve of five percent of gross revenues annually. The Lethbridge & District Exhibition Board will provide annual reports to City Council.
- On June 30, 2020, the Government of Alberta invested $27.8 million to develop an Agri-food hub at Exhibition Park.
- In the design phase in 2018, the City of Lethbridge contributed $1.1 million that was later matched by the Government of Alberta CARES grant program for a total of $2.2 million to complete the shovel-ready drawing set.
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