Alix Council permanently closes Moonwalkers


The Village of Alix Council voted in favour of permanently closing the doors to Moonwalkers Play Center effective immediately during a special council meeting Dec. 12.
The already financially struggling play center wasn’t able to make it through Alberta’s economic downturn.
“I am disappointed about the necessity to close the Moonwalkers Play Centre at this time,” said Alix Mayor Arlene Nelson in a prepared statement. “However, it is clear from the financial information we received tonight that we must act now, in the best interests of the future of our community.”
Moonwalkers opened in Alix in 2013 when council of the day was looking for a long-term economic anchor for the community that would bring people to the village who wouldn’t normally visit Alix.
“Unfortunately, the undertaking has never brought the direct benefits to the municipality that was anticipated,” said Alix’s new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Troy Jenkins in a prepared statement. “There were some indirect economic spinoffs for local businesses but in the end it could not be justified with a diminishing customer base and increased costs.
During the time the facility was open, new competition sprung up [Blackfalds Abbey Centre] within the catchment area, this coupled with the downturn in the economy, created a ‘perfect storm’ that sealed Moonwalkers’ fate.”
CAO Jenkins said village council’s decision is an example of the village’s commitment to the continuation of a major review council and administration has been undertaking into the operations of the municipality over the last several months.
“We are committed to providing an inclusive, transparent and accountable village government to all our residents,” said CAO Jenkins.
A caller to the ECA Review who attended the Dec. 12 meeting said that Moonwalkers was top of the ‘petition’ list that had been signed and sent to Municipal Affairs.
Moonwalkers, 3,500 square feet of interactive play equipment, featured tunnels and slides and a zipline. It had previously operated for 14 years in Red Deer, closing there in 2009.
“These numbers show a bleak financial picture,” said Deputy Mayor Rob Fehr in a prepared statement about the financials presented to council Dec. 12 by their auditor. “
In December 2015, a former Village of Alix recreation coordinator gave a presentation to Lacombe County asking for funding assistance for Moonwalkers. Lacombe County was provided with a five-year projected deficit including $109,555 for 2016 and $100,757 for 2017.
Lacombe County council, in early 2016, agreed to give Moonwalkers one-time funding of $5,000 for its 2015 operating deficit.
Lacombe County Manager of Corporate Services Tim Timmons, previously told Lacombe County council that Moonwalkers staff claimed, from Jan. 1 to Nov. 30, 2015, 41 per cent of its users were from Lacombe County  however Timmons thought it more accurate at 10 per cent.
Timmons also pointed out that the Village of Alix was funding the entire deficit through taxation.
In 2012 Alix came up with the idea of a community activity centre plus business incubator project. The project was a private-public partnership between the Village of Alix and Creative Infrastructure from Wetaskiwin.
Moonwalkers employed eight people, three full time and five-part time, including students.

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