Evergreen Park History - 2000-2010
The turn of the century marked the beginning of a decade of transformation of Evergreen Park. A robust regional economy brought heightened expectations and the need for modernization of Evergreen Park’s facilities.
In order to accommodate the increased demand, plans were set in motion for the design and construction of a multipurpose trade centre, which is now known as the Trade and Exhibition Centre or the TEC Centre.
Plans for the development of the TEC Centre became a reality in the fall of 2005 when each of the Province of Alberta and the County of Grande Prairie provided the Grande Prairie AG Society with a Capital Grant in the sum of $5.5 million.
Coinciding with the plans for construction of the TEC Centre was the formation of a relationship with Horse Racing Alberta. Horse Racing Alberta was charged with the responsibility of promoting horse racing in the Province of Alberta and was interested in establishing a presence in Northern Alberta. In order to facilitate that initiative, HRA proposed the construction and operation of a new Racing Entertainment Centre at Evergreen Park. The proposal provided Evergreen Park the opportunity to become one of only 4 Racing Entertainment Centres in Alberta, with Calgary, Edmonton and Lethbridge holding the license for the other three.
The proposal by HRA provided for three significant economic impacts on the Park:
- HRA agreed to loan the Ag Society $1,000,000 interest free to be paid back over 10 years from slot revenues generated at the Park.
- HRA needed immediate upgrades to Evergreen Park facilities to host an expanded race meet and offered Evergreen Park Capital Grants to accommodate those needs if construction could commence immediately.
- HRA would grant the Grande Prairie Ag Society a license to operate 99 slot machines at Evergreen Park entitling the Society to share in the proceeds of the slot revenues generated at the Track.
After much planning and negotiation, in 2006 an agreement was struck between HRA and the Grande Prairie Agricultural Society for the construction of Racing Entertainment Centre attached to the Gordon Badger Stadium.
On the strength of the funding commitments by the Province of Alberta, the County of Grande Prairie and now Horse Racing Alberta, construction plans were put into motion in early 2006.
The capital construction projects were significant and quickly transformed Evergreen Park into what we see today.
As part of the improvements, the park was conceptually reorganized into separate zones with a view to integrate the many aspects of the Society’s events and activities at Evergreen Park while minimizing booking conflicts. The zones were generally broken into the following categories:
- The TEC Centre and Clarkson Hall Business Centres
- The Race Track and Racing Entertainment Centre
- The Equestrian and Riding Centre
- The Boarding and Stabling Area
- The Sports and Recreation Facilities
- The Parking and Outdoor Display Areas
- The Camping Areas
- The future home of PARDS
It was the view of the Board that not only could Evergreen Park host multiple events at one time, much value could be added to the events if a venue could be used simultaneously by more than one group.
Accordingly, the Park was designed in a fashion that attempted to facilitate both the integration of activities in different zones or independence of events within the separate zones if needed.
Room for growth and future expansion was a critical consideration to the future development of the Park and with the availability of additonal acres, future growth is sustainable in all areas.
Six new horse barns were constructed in the Boarding and Stabling Area, containing new livestock stalls. This construction was completed at the request of HRA to accommodate a temporary move of the Standardbred Horse Racing to Grande Prairie. When used in conjunction with temporary stalls in both the Drysdale Center and the Lewis Hawkes Pavilion, Evergreen Park can now board over 500 horses.
Upgrades were made to the Evergreen Park camping area, including installation of power and sewer hookups. In 2000, the Stompede Campground was constructed and stalls were created with water and sewer services. Subsequently in 2007, water and power service was extended along the backside of the track area, creating much needed camping space for competitors during busy event days.
With the combined improvements, there are now over 100 sites available to patrons of Evergreen Park with additional area in the parking lots for overflow during large events.
The large parking area outside the Drysdale Centre and Lewis Hawkes Pavilion was resurfaced to facilitate larger trade show requirements needed for the outdoor Forestry, Petroleum and Ag Shows. An additional parking and storage area was also constructed on the west side of the space.
Clarkson Hall has been renovated. After the growth of racing required the utilization of both the Lewis Hawkes Pavilion and the Drysdale Centre, Evergreen Park relocated the riding rings to the Equestrian and Riding Centre behind the Gordon Badger Stadium in the east portion of the park.
The Racing Entertainment Centre was completed and opened for business in the spring of 2007 and includes a restaurant and casino with 99 slot machines.
Significant upgrades were made to the standardbred track; as a result, Grande Prairie boasts one of the top standardbred track surfaces in all of Canada.
The Trade and Exhibition Centre (Tech Centre) was completed in the summer of 2007 and has become the face of Evergreen Park and the central hub of activity.
The parking lot was paved in conjunction with the construction of the TEC Centre to facilitate movement of outdoor exhibits to the TEC Centre location. At the same time, the park cleared and leveled an additional parking area to facilitate some of the heavier equipment and vehicles, reducing damage to main traffic areas.
Lighting was installed throughout traffic areas and fencing was constructed in several spots for aesthetic reasons, as well as to protect the grounds from wear and tear.
Two new ball diamonds have been constructed by the Kinsmen Club, to bring the total number to six at Kin Park.
With the addition of these facilities, Evergreen Park remains one of the most coveted baseball venues in all of Western Canada.
Meanwhile, the County improved access to and from the Exhibition Grounds by widening the entry/exit from two to three lanes, improving the exit turning lane and installing walking trails adjoining the City of Grande Prairie trail system.
When the dust settled, the Grande Prairie Agricultural Society had invested over $20,000,000 into Evergreen Park from 2005 to 2010, setting the table for unprecedented opportunities.