FTLComm - Swift Current - April 26, 2000

Swift Current and Yorkton each located on opposite sides of the province are remarkably similar but also remarkably different. Both have populations of over 15,000 and both are service centres for a huge area that surrounds them. Yorkton's rural population is much more concentrated and is therefore substantially larger but Swift Current's main commercial competitor is Medicine Hat Alberta where as Yorkton has to compete with Regina. It is important to understand the differences because with Swift Current on the open prairie and
Yorkton in the park land with
smaller farms and more villages and towns both are faced with coping in these difficult agricultural times.

Yorkton developed as a service centre to the ethnic populations that came to this province with the development of the second transcontinental railway a few miles away running through Melville but Swift Current was developed with
the building of the initial
Canadian Pacific line that united the country in 1885 and many feel dissolved the country with the ending of the crow rates at the beginning of the nineties.

The picture at the top of the page looks North up Swift Current's main street the second most attractive main street in Saskatchewan (Moose Jaw is number 1 and Humboldt number 3) the second picture on this page shows the South end of main street with the CP station still sitting there. The picture above right shows another CP building just East of Main and on the right is a building just West of Main. It is fitting to include these pictures in a modern discussion about Swift Current because its reason for existence was the railway and for most of this century the railway was the reason for the town's development into a city.
Saskatchewan Geographical Note:
Canadian prairie towns and cities have a unique layout that distinguishes them from their American counter-parts. In an American town or city the main street almost always is headed up with the court house. In Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta, those towns that were built as a result of the coming of the railroad had the railway station at the head of their main street and the streets run perpendicular from the track. Those communities which were settled before the railroad will be laid out with their street grid parallel and associated with the direction of the river. Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Prince Albert all were established on rivers whereas Regina, Brandon, Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Lethbridge are all railway towns. With the ending of passenger service on the prairies, most towns and cities have removed their railway stations, but find the main street and you will find that it ends in the former location of the station.

Along the way oil field development further contributed to Swift Current but today it is an established farm service centre and marketplace. Each corner on Main street which is a one way street going North (as seen below) is the location of one of each of Canada's major banks. The Royal abandoned Main street a few years ago and moved to the neighbouring South bound thoroughfare to the West of Main street.

These pictures were taken mid afternoon Tuesday and as you can see there are plenty of customers on the street and there is a general air of positive commerce. As few as five years ago more then half of the downtown area of Swift Current and half of its two malls were empty. Now the downtown area has made a modest comeback with from 25% to 33% of the downtown business locations empty or going out of business with liquidation signs in the windows. The Co-op / Wall Mart mall is busy with its parking lot close to full and most of its store locations open and running. The Zellers / Safeway Mall is relying upon those two anchors and has a lot of vacancies.
Swift Current depends considerably on traffic from the Transcanada highway and this year a number of construction projects are adding to the already extensive line up of motels and services to travellers. With Macdonalds, 7-11, A&W, KFC, Pizza Hut, a new Subway and Burger King are under construction as is a Tim Hortons. Two strip malls are well under way and should be open for business by the end of May. The empty downtown storefronts may be as much of a sign of the times as they are indicators of the shift in commerce toward the malls and the highway. The car dealerships have almost all moved to the area near highway #1 and with the number of businesses operating like Canadian Tire (the first one in Saskatchewan) Home Depot, Westfair foods "Warehouse",

Swift Current is a viable market community the oil industry continues to use it as a centre for oil field service and there are a number of alternative industries that have located in the community seeing it as a good location from which to manufacture or process products.

The city is extremely attractive with its golf course and many great parks. However, even paradise can be difficult at times there is a deer problem. As we mentioned some days ago the interesting situation with urban rabbits in Winnipeg, Swift Current shares its deer problem with the Manitoba capital city. With no real predators and dogs on leaches the deer have discovered gardens, lawns and in the picture below the cemetery as outstanding picnic areas. Citizens are less then pleased with these horny neighbours and they essentially have become a nuisance and many parts of the community.

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