Red River Ex convention site to expand to meet convention demand

The growing demand for convention space in and around Winnipeg has one facility looking at a massive expansion to accommodate increased numbers.The CEO of the Red River Exhibition Association told 680 CJOB the convention facility at the Portage Avenue grounds just west of the city limits is planning to almost double in size.Story continues below

“We’re pretty maxed out,” said Garth Rogerson. “October is always a challenging month, too. We’ve seen such a tremendous increase in business that we’re looking at expanding. We’re actually turning customers away.”Rogerson said the Ex grounds are already looking at 230 event days booked in 2019, and he’s wanted to increase the capacity of the almost 40,000 square-foot Exhibition Place for years, but it’s been a slow process.“We don’t get government funding of any sort, so we have to build slowly,” he said.“That’s where we started with 39,000 square feet, and we’re going to add another 30+ starting in 2020.“We’re in front of city council in the next month asking for permission to install a new water line, which is the first step in about $1.5 million of underground work to get ready for this building, and we hope to have a shovel in the ground in the spring because we need the space.”READ MORE: To be continued: Popular C4 comic con cancels 2019 Winnipeg showRogerson said Exhibition Place typically takes on shows that are too small for the RBC Convention Centre, too big for hotels, or are industrial in nature, and while he’d love to host a high-profile event like the C4 Comic Con, his facility is in no way trying to poach events from its downtown counterpart.The comic convention recently cancelled its 2019 event due in part, they said, to a lack of available dates at the downtown convention centre.“We don’t want to take away from the convention centre. We want to fill in,” he said.“I think we should all work together. I’m a big supporter of the convention centre, and I think they’re doing great things for Winnipeg. I think we could do great things for Winnipeg as well.”The additional 30,000 square feet at Exhibition Place, Rogerson said, is part of an even more ambitious expansion planned for the future.“I’ve been wanting 140,000 square feet for years, but the challenge is the mortgage and having to pay that when you’re self-sustaining,” he said.“It’s very risky, and we didn’t want to end up broke, so we built this first building to kind of test the waters. It came out of the gate very strong. It’s been nine years and it’s been very successful.“Now’s the time to pull the pin on the next one, and we’re going to add this addition, and then the building will go in an L-shape after that, and add another 100,000 square feet. We’re looking within the next five, six years… I think we could get up to there.”WATCH: Tattoo Convention takes over Red River Exhibition Park