Four months after the City of Brandon approved $500,000 for the Keystone Centre’s capital plan, the facility’s other funding partner — the Province of Manitoba — has still not announced if it plans to match the contribution.
Coun. Lonnie Patterson (South Centre) said as the Keystone is an important part of her ward, the city and the southwest region of the province — it’s time for an answer.
"I think a formal council resolution making this request will bring it up again, it will provide us with a formal communication to the province, and hopefully something we can get a response to," said Patterson, who is a member of the Keystone Centre’s board. She plans to bring forward the resolution at the June 5 city council meeting.
Due to the provincial byelection for Winnipeg’s Point Douglas area, there is now a blackout period which restricts government departments from advertising or publishing any information about their programs or activities.
The byelection to replace former MLA Kevin Chief will be held June 13.
"This resolution will get passed while the blackout period is on," Patterson said. "The work of government doesn’t stop during a byelection, so hopefully they can make that half-a-million dollar decision."
While Brandon East Progressive Conservative MLA Len Isleifson could not comment on the request, he did say he continues to advocate for strategic investment in his constituency.
Council’s $500,000 contribution is contingent on the province matching the funds. As Patterson points out, in reality, the request has been on the table since early 2016. That year, the city again provided $500,000. It was originally contingent on matching funds, but that condition was removed when the province did not step up.
Patterson is hopeful that it is a positive result this year, now that the Pallister government has had time to review all the information and consider the economic impacts of the facility.
"It is a revenue generator for the provincial government," Patterson said.
A $500,000 investment would help make sure that the building is maintained and improved so it can continue to be the venue for a wide-variety of events.
"The province receives provincial sales tax from all of the spending generated by events at the Keystone Centre," she said. "When people come in for the fair, they go out for lunch, they go to some shopping … also food and beverage sales within the Keystone generate sales tax."
A 2014 study conducted by Brandon University professors Doug Ramsey and Derek Eberts, concluded the Keystone Centre generates at least $62 million for the local economy on an annual basis.
The study used estimated visitor data from the three Provincial Exhibition fairs in 2012, the Wheat Kings’ 2011-12 season, 56 Keystone Centre events in 2011-12 (including Manitoba Ag Days) and the Canadian National Arabian and Half-Arabian Horse Show that was held in 2013.
The study did not include all events, nor did it estimate the impact of recreational sporting events (i.e. ice hockey, figure skating, curling, indoor soccer) on the local economy.
Maintenance and capital costs are mounting at the aging facility, which spans 540,000 square feet. When the Keystone Centre laid out its five-year capital plan in 2015, the original request was $1 million from each of its funding partners per year.
That same year, city council voted in favour of supporting the capital plan, which was a success for the Keystone as the goal was to secure multi-year funding, rather than one-off capital requests.
With the 2016 funds, the Keystone was able to purchase some much-needed equipment, including a Zamboni, sweeper, forklift as well as replacement tables and chairs for banquet services. They recently have had to deal with a leaky roof in the Canada Room hallway, as well as an ammonia leak in a condenser in the north end of the facility.
"There is an argument for making the investment, and I think it’s an argument that fits into what the government has been communicating in terms of their choices to invest or not invest in requests," Patterson said.
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