© Times-Herald photo by Lisa Goudy
Lori Johnson, Burrowing Owl co-ordinator at the Burrowing Owl Centre, holds ambassador owl Potter while speaking on the proposed upgrades to the centre at the Jan. 27, 2014 budget committee meeting. Potter will be four years old in July.
The Moose Jaw Exhibition Company was created in 1884.
One-hundred-and-thirty years later, for the first time, the company is asking for a direct funding relationship with the City of Moose Jaw.
"Although you may drive down Thatcher Drive and not see much going on, on the north end of the property where the horse facilities are, there’s a lot of weekends where there’s a lot of trailers there and a lot of activity going on and a lot of economic spinoff for the city,” said George Fowler, general manager of the Moose Jaw Exhibition Company.
At Monday’s budget committee meeting, Fowler, along with Lori Johnson, Burrowing Owl co-ordinator and ambassador owl Potter, made a presentation and request for the city to provide $111,000 to capital projects and the company providing $226,000.
He said over the past three years, the company has self-funded $1.4 million of capital projects. Future projects include upgrading the PA system in the Golden Mile Arena and a new roof for the south side of the arena with costs of $29,000 and $58,000 respectively.
“The two at the arena are absolutely crucial to us maintaining our shows,” said Fowler, adding the Quarter Horse Association holds horse shows each year that produce between $4.5 and $5 million per year in economic tourism business.
The company also plans to upgrade and renovate the Burrowing Owl Centre at a cost of $250,000. Those renovations include a hospital and treatment room, a winter enclosure and viewing area for ambassador owls and space to provide additional interactive displays.
“None of these items were ones we had budgeted for this year, but these are not optional. We have to undertake them,” said Fowler. “The company’s made a determination to expand the owls.”
Johnson said Potter was raised to take part in the education program, which is “really the hard drive behind our centre.”
“We feel it’s very important for people to have the opportunity to meet an endangered species up close and personal and we’re lucky enough to have them,” said Johnson. “It’s really difficult to kind of get the information out there without having an ambassador owl with us. So we felt very lucky to have these little guys in our program. They do a great job.
“We could do a much better job though if we were able to improve some of our facilities, primarily becoming more year-round friendly to our visitors.”
Right now the centre is open from the May long weekend to the September long weekend.
“Once the cold weather hits, our birds are brought indoors and we don’t have proper viewing areas for people to come in and visit the owls throughout the winter, which means that we do a lot of outreach tours during the winter months,” said Johnson. “We all know how unpredictable our winter can be here. So we’re looking into kind of doing some facility upgrades around the centre.”
The centre cares for 12 burrowing owls, one short-eared owl and a resident gopher. The upgrades would “allow for more people to come and visit with us,” she said.
“We’d be able to get more awareness out there, which is really what we want in the long-term,” said Johnson. “We also think it would be beneficial for the City of Moose Jaw in the long run. It would promote more tourism in the city.”
Budget committee unanimously referred it to future capital budget discussion.
Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.