Former Keystone Centre GM Dan Robertson looks at the damage in the ceiling of the facility’s City Square arena.
When Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst read the provincial government the riot act, demanding funding to fix busted pipes and leaking roofs at the Keystone Centre, it pleased facility chairman John Macialek.
"Without a question it helps, especially with the mayor coming to the plate saying we need provincial and federal funding and without a doubt it will help us," Macialek said Thursday at the Keystone Centre board meeting. "We need almost $4 million for roofing upgrades, you name it down the line. There are pumps breaking down throughout the system, air conditioning systems, you name it."
After the Keystone Centre announced the Brandon Wheat Kings signed a new five-year lease on Wednesday, Decter Hirst spoke about the maintenance needs, unmet for years throughout the sprawling complex.
She noted the provincial government has been "not very" approachable for funding those needs at this point, which frustrated her when she read additional enhancements are being considered for similar facilties in Winnipeg.
"I can only presume that they don’t understand how critical it is for the Keystone Centre to continue to drive the western Manitoba economy because that roof has leaked for years," Decter Hirst said Wednesday. "We have got to get it fixed."
Decter Hirst said that’s the reason she wanted the facility to start developing five-year capital spending plans a year a go, complete with needs ranked in order of precedence with reliably priced estimates. She said the list of improvements is estimated to cost $10 million.
"The longer we wait on that roof (repair) the more it’s going to cost so let’s get it done," Decter Hirst said.
Macialek said the board hasn’t even come up with a number on how much the needed upgrades will cost, but said the lighting at Westman Place needs more immediate attention because it does not meet existing broadcast requirements.
The needs don’t stop with roofs, as Keystone Centre general manager Neil Thomson said Thursday that he often hears from maintenance staff of busted pipes and other crumbling infrastructure. That’s not shocking, as parts of the facility are nearing or exceeding 40 years in age, but it adds to the need for improvements.
Keystone Centre board members also discussed the Amphitheatre, now closed because of a state of disrepair and whether it makes sense to convert the space to a convention hall with one level and a lower-level storage facility. One estimate showed it would cost $1.7 million to do that, a figure that made at least one board member choke up and raised eyebrows around the board table.
Brandon East NDP MLA Drew Caldwell offered the following statement by email, in reply to Decter Hirst’s concern.
"As we have been there for the Keystone Centre in the past, whether building the Agricultural Centre for Excellence or delivering the Memorial Cup, we will be there for the Keystone Centre in the future," Caldwell wrote. "We will continue to work together with our funding partners at the City of Brandon to build economic development opportunities at the Keystone Centre."
Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer said whatever funding is provided should be subject to a spending review.
"We have a huge budget deficit here that they need to deal with," Helwer said. "If the NDP had been more responsible in controlling their spending, it would be easier to fund projects like the Keystone Centre. Having said that, we have always been a supporter of the Keystone Centre and it is an important part of western Manitoba. The province, being a partner, needs to step up but we need to see some concrete figures."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 25, 2012