July 19th, 2024

Lethbridge Exhibition revenues were significantly impacted by COVID-19

By Lethbridge Herald on May 19, 2022.

Al Beeber
Lethbridge Herald

Lethbridge and District Exhibition revenue in 2021 dropped nine per cent from 2020, the

Economic Standing Policy Committee of city council was told Wednesday.

That $3.75 million in revenue was 25.4 per cent lower than the five-year average from 2017-2021, Exhibition Chief Executive Officer Mike Warkentin told the SPC in his report.

Expenses of $3.43 million were 14.3 per cent lower last year than in 2020 and 26.9 per cent lower than the five-year average from ’17-’21 due to significant cost management in place because of uncertain industry conditions, the report stated.

2021 was heavily influenced by COVID-19 and the impacts the pandemic had on mass gatherings, Warkentin told the SPC.

Warkentin said prior to COVID hitting in 2020, the Exhibition managed to stage Ag-Expo but “we weren’t able to do that in its full capacity in 2021 so we saw a major decrease and then obviously we saw a significant 25 per cent plus decrease over the five-year average,” he said.

The Exhibition had a $174,000 positive cash flow in 2021 despite the challenges presented by COVID-19 restrictions, which was down 35.7 per cent from 2020 and 32.2 per cent below the five-year average.

A bright spot in 2021, the SPC was told, was improved attendance at signature events that attracted 90,000 people, a whopping increase of 99.5 per cent over 2020. That figure was, however, 5.9 per cent lower than pre-pandemic levels.

“The one kind of bright spot that we saw was 90,000 people return to our signature events, most of which were through our farmers market. We set a record number of people through our farmers market last year,” Warkentin said, adding “Whoop-Up Days was exceptionally strong led by the free admissions. We had a lot of people come to the park and show that they want to participate in the activities we’re doing in the park.”

Warkentin said “revenues also saw a lot of stops and starts” due to COVID restrictions which allowed the Exhibition to host events with limited capacities “then we opened right up for the summer and we were allowed to do much more but it was an inconsistent year for revenue growth for our organization.”

The Exhibition received $1.19 million in pandemic grant subsidies last year which was a 19.4 per cent increase over 2020 and a 97.2 per cent increase from the five-year average.

“Our year was really a story of the grant subsidies. I talk about it being a year that was up and down from a stop-and-start perspective. We survived on the basis of the subsidies that were provided really in the past two years,” he said.

“Even from 2020, we saw a 19.4 per cent increase over 2020 largely in part because I think we converted our controller into being a grant finder. He wrote more grants in 2021 for every possible opportunity that we’d quality for, really at every opportunity that we could. 

“Our grant funding of nearly $1.19 million is nearly a hundred per cent increase over our five year average,” he added.

At the recommendation of its board, the Exhibition “moved significantly into a cost-cutting mode in early 2020 following the closure from the pandemic and maintained that into 2021. It was only late in fiscal 2021 that we started to ramp up for the eventual opening of the agri-food hub,” Warkentin added.

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