Keeping the Cochrane Lions Rodeo grounds in the heart of downtown is what Mayor Jeff Genung maintains is best for the community and he says that is the direction the town is taking.
Genung spoke to a full house at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast event that featured him as the guest speaker on the morning of Feb. 21 at the Cochrane RancheHouse.
“The Lions Club has expressed interest in staying … we are now working under the premise that they are staying,” said Genung, officially quelling rumours that the rodeo grounds may be relocated outside of the town – a top topic during the municipal election run last fall.
A study to determine site feasibility of the entire Fifth Avenue public lands site – from the rodeo grounds to the now-demolished former pool site – will be conducted later this year, likely in the summer.
Genung once again hinted at the possible feasibility of planning for a multi-purpose community/culture site that could incorporate youth groups such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Seniors on the Bow.
“The Cochrane Lions are working towards acquiring a lease extension from the town on the rodeo grounds,” said Mark Demeo, public relations director for the Cochrane Lions Club.
“This will enable us to make some much-needed upgrades to the grounds which will improve the overall experience for both contestants and fans at the rodeo.”
Demeo added that the club is looking forward to working with the town to transform the entire site into a community/cultural hub adjacent to the rodeo grounds.
The Lions 50-year lease with the Town of Cochrane expires in 2019.
Last spring, the Lions revised its lease to add the Lions Club Event Centre (former curling club) under the service club’s management.
As the club did not have certainty as to whether or not it would continue after next year in the same location, it has kept improvements to the now-flourishing centre minimal.
Once a new lease with the town is signed, the club plans to expand renovations to the facility, as well as renovate the rodeo grounds concession area and arena components.
Mayor Genung likens the downtown location to the Calgary Stampede grounds as added character and Western heritage to Calgary’s downtown and feels strongly that Cochrane can do the same.
He looks forward to devising future growth pressure solutions as it relates to the rodeo grounds with the Lions, including addressing parking concerns.
Cochrane going for big bucks
Genung announced that Cochrane is poised to aim high and vie for the top prize in the upcoming nationwide Smart Cities Challenge – $50 million – at the Feb. 21 breakfast meeting.
Ahead of the application deadline of April 24, municipalities must make their intentions clear as to whether they are applying for the grant of up to $50 million, the two $10-million grants or the one $5-million grant.
Genung has been vocal about his desire to see Cochrane vie for the coming Smart Cities Challenge – a nationwide initiative that awards municipalities with grant dollars for employing technology to improve how their communities work.
“The little town by the Bow is going to be on the map … how can we utilize technology to make our communities more efficient?” said Genung, encouraging his audience to not shy away from big city competition with the likes of Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto in the running.
Genung and CAO Dave Devana continue to drive home the message that Cochrane is already home to tech giants like Garmin, 4iiii Innovations and mcThings.
The town will be holding a public engagement session on March 1 at 7 p.m. at the Cochrane Alliance Church and is encouraging people to contribute online at the newly-launched letstalkcochrane.ca website between March 2 and 13.
Finalists for the Smart Cities Challenge will be announced this summer.
Restructuring at the town
Genung discussed recent restructuring of the senior leadership team at the breakfast meeting as one of the first steps to address a “fragmented culture at the Town of Cochrane” in the face of union talks among boots on the ground staff.
As a result, two positions were found to be redundant and were eliminated – the senior manager of human resources and communications and the manager of recreation, culture and arts.
Human resources and communications management will now report directly to the CAO. The recreation, culture and arts programming will now be distribute to existing management roles.
Devana, on behalf of the town, thanked the senior manager for 10 years of services and the recreation, culture and arts manager for 19 years of service.
The terms of severance agreements for both positions are confidential.
Genung confirmed those positions will not be replaced. He also spoke to the crowd about a recent “unprecedented” all-staff meeting that he and Devana held last month.
The town will also be facilitating the formation of a staff/management committee that would “establish a two-way conduit of connectivity” that would seek to provide a platform for staff who feel their voices have not been heard.