It’s heartening that some at Okotoks Town Hall are looking at an ice rink or an arts centre as more than simply a public amenity.
Although those facilities were built to provide services to the taxpayers of Okotoks, and that should obviously be their primary function, there’s also an ability to monetize such amenities for the good of the local economy that shouldn’t be overlooked. There were a couple of instances recently where Town officials have discussed such possibilities and thankfully, they’ve recognized those economic benefits.
Council members voted to remove 60 feet of black netting from in front of the press and penalty boxes at Pason Centennial Arena, while also replacing the existing six-foot glass in that area with eight-foot glass. The move is significant because it allows for better livestreaming of events, a key piece of the puzzle when trying to attract provincial and national competitions to the arena.
Bringing hundreds of competitors and their families to town, like was the case in May with the Telus and Esso cups, provides a jolt to the local economy, so ensuring local facilities are capable of handling such events puts host organizations in a better position to bid on them.
Council also recently discussed the idea of using arts and culture as an economic driver, looking at a public art program and the reactivation of the Rotary Performing Arts Centre as potential catalysts. The premise is similar: using amenities to attract visitors who will in turn spend money at local shops and restaurants.
Although the old adage of “spending money to make money” still holds true, the key here is to ensure any outlay isn’t disproportionate to the potential return. Investing in the arts is laudable, but spending with the hopes of a monetary return is something quite different. Mayor Tanya Thorn’s comments during the discussion suggest she’s well aware of the difference so we trust the Town will proceed cautiously on this front.