A damning study has left the future of a multi-purpose sports facility in Minnedosa up in the air.
The 50-page study, which was commissioned by the Town of Minnedosa and released last month, examined the feasibility of constructing and operating the Minnedosa Regional Events Centre.
The proposed facility would feature two sheets of ice, a fitness centre with meeting space, children’s play area, walking track and several dry floor amenities for local and regional uses.
However, the study calls the proposed building "not viable" in a number of key areas.
The MREC was planned to be a 92,628-square-foot facility that in 2011 was projected to cost $22 million.
Minnedosa Coun. Rick Saler said council is heeding the advice of the study and now has the consultant examining what options would work best for the community.
The first thing to go appears to be the second sheet of arena ice, as the market dictates it’s not necessary.
Saler said when the committee originally set out to build a new facility, minor hockey numbers were stronger, something also noted in the study. Over the past two years, numbers have decreased from 180 skaters to 75 in 2013.
While minor hockey numbers have fallen, Saler said the rink also supports the figure skating club, a senior hockey team, a recreational hockey league and women’s hockey teams.
The study asked five questions regarding the feasibility of the project, and stated if one answer was negative it would jeopardize the project.
"Our analysis suggests that four of the five tests of feasibility have failed and conclude that in its present form the proposed event centre is not viable, feasible or sustainable over the long-term," the study says.
The executive summary states the local and regional market cannot support the facility, that the business plan is flawed, that there is no basis for assuming capital cost to pay for construction can be raised and suggests the facility will operate at a deficit and require future public money.
The project has raised the ire of a group of people in the community concerned about the price tag of the facility, but Saler said council will take a measured approach.
"We’re going to build what we can afford," Saler said. "We’re not going to borrow a bunch of money and break the town."
However, at some point, something is going to have to be done as the existing arena was built prior to 1950 and is rapidly approaching the end of its life cycle.
Saler doesn’t think it’s wise to invest in a facility that is on its last legs, something the study also supports. He said a common-sense approach to the community’s needs will be taken.
"For small-town Manitoba a person has to have an arena," Saler said, "but depending on how much money we can raise will determine what gets built because we have to focus on the priorities first."
He also has no issue with the amount of dialogue that the new facility has generated, but cautioned it’s important to keep it constructive.
"Some of the people that are against it have legitimate questions to ask," Saler said. "Something this big in a town our size isn’t something that should just be done. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions and there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with it, but some of the people are starting to get personal, and that’s the part I don’t like."
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 21, 2014