Bright Lights cancelled, other options being explored

Bright Lights Windsor, Jackson Park, January 7, 2020. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

The City of Windsor is exploring alternative ways to celebrate the holidays after having to cancel Bright Lights 2020.

A report going to council on Monday night states that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Windsor’s Recreation & Culture Department has been forced to cancel many events in 2020 including but not limited to Open Streets and Bright Lights.

As a result, administration has been exploring options to increase the presence of the Bright Lights infrastructure and displays in the community in consultations with the local business improvement associations (BIAs).

Administration is requesting that council approve the enhancement of holiday lighting displays at secured City of Windsor facilities using Bright Lights displays and existing funding from the 2020 Holiday Lights Operating Budget.

“With the lights and displays currently sitting in storage, there is an opportunity to use some of them at various indoor locations throughout the city,” stated the report. “One alternative that can be offered is to set up some of the displays at city facilities such as the atrium at City Hall, the WFCU Centre and the atrium at the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre. These buildings are already open to the public and would provide a safe and secure location for a display.”

According to the report, staff looked at hte possibility of placing the displays at outdoor locations across the city. However, operating multiple outdoor displays would require additional security and would add significant costs.

“While this opportunity exists, there is a great security risk that comes with this alternative,” the report reads. “When operating Bright Lights at Jackson Park, the site is fully fenced and there is security on-site during the entire period to ensure the displays are not tampered with or stolen. As these displays would be quite costly to replace, it is not recommended that they be left outside without security.”

Administration is also recommending transferring $180,000 from the 2020 Holiday Lights Operating Budget to the Holiday Lights Capital Budget to invest in additional holiday displays by funding a matching partnership program with local BIAs.

According to the report, administration recently met with representatives from each of the BIAs to discuss holiday lighting opportunities for the 2020/21 season.

“In discussion with the BIAs, a matching fund partnership program was discussed as an option, as it would enhance the holiday lights in various areas of the city,” stated the report.” If approved by council, this program would allow the BIA’s to apply for city funding to further enhance their displays. The funds provided would need to be used specifically to purchase or rent temporary beautification items such as holiday displays or lighting, window displays, floral items or it could be used for infrastructure upgrades to display these items. The BIAs would need to come up with the initial funding however, the city could match the funding amount between $1,000 and $20,000 per BIA. With a total of nine BIAs throughout the city, the maximum amount that would be funded by the city would be a total of $180,000.”

The City of Windsor has an operating budget of $592,000 for holiday lighting program for various sites around the city and for Bright Lights in 2020. Approximately $92,000 of the overall annual budget has already been spent on the removal of the 2019/2020 displays. Funding will be used on setting up holiday displays in the traditional locations including the lighting near the underpass at Dougall Avenue and Howard Avenue.

If council moves forward with enhanced displays at secure indoor City of Windsor facilities, part of the operating budget would be used to enhance these locations. If approved, $180,000 is the maximum amount that would be used to fund the BIA Matching Partnership Program, which would leave a savings from the Holiday Lights operating budget of $195,000.

According to the report, staff will continue to follow COVID-19 guidelines put in place by the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, the Province of Ontario and the Canadian Government.

In the event that Windsor-Essex is required to implement new restrictions, facilities may be forced to close and any indoor displays would no longer be accessible.

“Moving some displays indoors is a moderate risk as it may result in more people entering city facilities and will lead to an increase of interactions with each other and with city employees,” read the report. “Both of these interactions can lead to more opportunities to spread COVID-19 should an infected person enter a facility. This can be mitigated by ensuring physical distancing rules are in place and being followed, enhanced cleaning measures are in place and a limited amount of people are in a facility/at the amenity at any one time.”

The indoor displays would also be placed so that they can be viewed from the outside the venue wherever possible.