Calgary Stampede gets $1.6M from feds for re-creation of historic church

The federal government has announced $2.4 million in funding for new cultural infrastructure in Calgary, including money to re-create an historic Victoria Park church.

Walton Hall pays homage to Westbourne Baptist Church, demolished in 2017

Walton Hall, a new performance space on the Stampede grounds, is slated for completion by the summer. (Dave Will/CBC)

The federal government announced $2.4 million in funding Friday for new cultural infrastructure in Calgary.

Among the benefactors are Fort Calgary, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame and the Calgary Stampede Foundation, which is getting $1.6 million for its new performance and rehearsal space, Walton Hall.

The facility on the Stampede's new youth campus pays homage to the 110-year old Westbourne Church in Victoria Park, which was damaged beyond repair by the 2013 flood and torn down four years later.

The Westbourne Baptist Church, where former Alberta premier William Aberhart delivered his first sermons prior to entering politics, was torn down in 2017. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

The hall is modelled after the historic church and will incorporate elements from it. The facility will be available to artists of all levels, said the foundation's Steve Allen.

"It'll be a 100-seat theatre, but a place where artists can come, they can practise their performances and develop their skills as performing artists," said Allen.

The Westbourne Baptist Church at Olympic Way S.E. is where William Aberhart began delivering Sunday sermons in the 1910s, which became so popular that he rented the Palace Theatre and had them broadcast on radio across the province.

Aberhart went on to found the Social Credit Party and became the seventh premier of the province, serving from 1935 until his death in 1943.     

Walton Hall is named after the real estate and development company Walton, which donated $1.5 million toward the project.

The former Westbourne Baptist Church on Olympic Way S.E., where William Aberhart first preached, was torn down after being badly damaged in the 2013 flood. (Google Maps )

Edmonton Liberal MP Randy Boissonnault, who made the announcement in Calgary, says this kind of investment reaffirms the value of the arts and creative spaces in Canada's cities.

"It's a liveability factor as well. I mean, when people come to Calgary that build their lives and work here, they want to know that there are arts and culture opportunities, not just for themselves but for their kids. And the Calgary Stampede Foundation is stepping up, and that's why it was important."

The project is already well underway, and the new venue is expected to open its doors this summer.