Red River Ex woos commodity organizations

Winnipeg may be the only major city in Canada without a venue for agricultural exhibitions, 
but an expansion at the Red River Exhibition grounds hopes to change all that

Red River Exhibition Park is going back to its agrarian roots.

The 450-acre site is in the midst of a massive expansion project, and is inviting commodity groups and agribusiness to make their home at Exhibition Park’s new Commodity Campus.

Dairy Farmers of Manitoba was the first to move to the site last January, and work is expected to begin on a second, multi-tenant building this spring.

“We’re an agricultural society, so the Red River Exhibition Act of 1964 incorporated us to really be a promotional vehicle for agriculture,” said Garth Rogerson, CEO of the Red River Exhibition Association.

“With this, we’re really going back to our roots and seeing how we can help support the agricultural industry.”

Rogerson said the next building in the Commodity Campus will offer competitive rent to small- and medium-size organizations, because some aspects of the building will be shared by tenants.

“It has a shared boardroom and reception area, and the idea is that the commodity is only paying for the space it absolutely needs, but has access to all the high-tech amenities it might need, smart boards, conferencing, all that jazz,” he said. “It reduces their costs and really makes them very competitive in showcasing themselves in the way that we want to showcase agriculture in Manitoba.”

Other parts of the expansion include hotels, restaurants and a commercial complex called Westport Festival, which is expected to help fund the multimillion-dollar expansion.

The second building in the Commodity Campus is expected to cost about $4 million, in addition to $1 million in infrastructure upgrades. Approximately $140 million will also be spent on expanding the Red River Ex’s fairgrounds.

Rogerson said profit margins on the new commodity building will be razor thin in the short term, but longer term is expected to provide funding for future facility upgrades.

In the meantime, the goal is to provide affordable rates for smaller groups, while also creating a hub for agriculture.

“Winnipeg is probably the only major city in North America that doesn’t have an agricultural trade show facility,” Rogerson said. He hopes this development will change that and draw international agriculture events and conferences to the city.

One of the hurdles faced by the association has been presenting a plan to the City of Winnipeg that accommodates the complicated zoning that goes along with a site including areas for livestock, offices and public events.

“We’ve stretched city planning a bit, because it is unusual and there isn’t precedent for this really anywhere else in North America. This is a new concept and it’s been extremely challenging to get through that planning process with the city,” Rogerson said. “But there is every indication that it will go forward this spring, and that’s why we’re moving forward with marketing the next building in the Commodity Campus.”

Shindico Realty Inc. will act as leasing agent for the Commodity Campus.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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