Ottawa allocates $48M to Fort Edmonton Park expansion

The federal government is investing nearly $48 million in the expansion of Fort Edmonton Park.

Expansion includes new Indigenous interpretive centre, roller coaster and revue theatre

The Indigenous exhibit will include new trails and an outdoor amphitheatre. (Edmonton Tourism)

The federal government is investing nearly $48 million in the expansion of Fort Edmonton Park. 

The money, announced by Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi at a public ceremony on Friday, will help fund a number of exhibits that are part of a new master plan for the museum, first announced in 2010.

An interpretive centre that showcases the region's rich Indigenous history will be built, with camps, trails, classrooms and an outdoor amphitheatre.

The Indigenous People's Experience, which will be built on undeveloped land near Egge's Barn and the old fort, will be the most expensive new exhibit, at a cost of $42 million.

The park's 1920s-themed "Johnny J Jones Midway" will also be expanded with new attractions, including a maze, a roller coaster and a cookhouse tent that converts into a 200-seat revue theatre.
A roller-coaster, maze, Revue Theatre and new ferris wheel are part of the upgrades planned for the 1920's Johnny J. Jones Midway at Fort Edmonton Park. (Lydia Neufeld/CBC)

A new admissions area will be built at the front gates, with the railway station, which currently houses the admissions office and a gift shop, will be reclaimed as a exhibit on Alberta's railway history.

The Selkirk Hotel will also be expanded with with an additional 22 rooms and a banquet hall to accommodate 250 people.

Showcasing the region's history in new ways is important, said Sohi, who announced the funds in partnership with his provincial counterpart Brian Mason, Edmonton mayor Don Iveson, park officials and local indigenous leaders.

"This is a transformative project for Edmonton," said Sohi. "This is a huge project for our city."

'It will be eye opening'

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Federal government allots nearly $48 million to Fort Edmonton Park expansion 0:46

It will be a place where history can be demonstrated through storytelling about the settlement of Edmonton, he added.

"Our history with Indigenous communities has not always been very positive ... the heartaches and the discrimination and the marginalization that Indigenous communities have faced in this country," Sohi said.

"[This exhibit] is a very necessary aspect of the recognition that historic wrongs have been done."

'World class attraction'

The federal government previously allocated $500,000 to the project, money that came from their centennial Canada 150 Fund. The Alberta government has already committed $33.5 million through its 2016 capital plan. 

The entire project has a price tag of approximately $165 million. As part of that, the City of Edmonton has committed $70 million towards upgrading the park's aging underground utilities installed nearly 60 years ago. 

"This will be a world class attraction that you can't find anywhere else," said Bill Demchuk, executive director of the Fort Edmonton Management Company.

Right now about 250,000 people visit Fort Edmonton every year and with the expansion, attendance is expected to double, said Demchuk.

"Our free admission day last year had 14,000 people here. This park is 158 acres; it's a big space. Even when you've got a couple thousand people here it seems empty. So getting 3-4,000 people a day here won't be insurmountable," he added.

The first phase of construction involves the installation of new gas, power and sewer lines and is expected to start in the fall of 2017.

The other work will begin in 2018, continue through the winter months, and be completed in 2020, added Demchuk.
A new front admissions area will be built at Fort Edmonton as part of a $165M expansion. As part of that, the train station, currently the admissions area and gift shop, will be reclaimed as an exhibit on Alberta's railway history. (Lydia Neufeld)